12 months ago, the aged care sector was experiencing an annual shortfall of 17,000 workers. Now a new report from independent thinktank Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) has estimated that the shortage of direct aged care workers has grown to 30,000 to 35,000.
The 14-page Duty of care: aged care sector in crisis report released on Tuesday states that aged care workforce shortages have doubled since last August – a space of just 10 months – with 65,000 workers leaving the sector every year from a workforce of over 360,000.
The report identifies low levels of migration, combined with negative publicity from the Royal Commission and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, as the key factors in the increased attrition rate.
“If workforce shortages at this level continue, we will not have enough workers to meet the basic standards of care recommended by the Royal Commission,” stated CEDA Senior Economist Cassandra Winzar in the report.
She adds that an additional 8,000 new workers will be needed per year for the sector to meet international best practice standards.
What, then, is the solution?
The report backs the Albanese Government’s pledge to support the outcome of the unions’ 25% wage claim case before the Fair Work Commission (FWC), saying that unions, employers, and the Government should work together to increase award wages in the sector.
But it also recommends:
- The direct recruitment of personal care workers by adding them to the temporary or permanent skilled-migration lists, or introducing a new “essential skills visa”
- The development by the industry and Governments of low-cost retraining options for those returning to the sector to boost skills and attract workers
“Addressing pay and migration should be the immediate priorities; however, we also need to look at improving training options and career pathways, and investing in new technologies to improve productivity,” Cassandra concluded.
The Albanese Government has acknowledged the need for greater migration to help the workforce shortfalls in the sector – and there appears to be some progress on this measure.