A 25% pay rise that attracts male workers and better supports female workers with caring responsibilities would be the ideal solution for workforce shortages, as the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) said targeted campaigns could help attract men to the female-dominated sector.
CEDA’s report, Occupational Gender Segregation 2023, has revealed that female participation across the entire Australian workforce has increased by 41% since 1980.
However, occupational gender segregation – where an occupation features mostly male or female workers – has remained high in certain sectors.
CEDA found that almost 90% of the aged care workforce and 79% of the health care/social assistance was female, compared to 16.3% in mining and 12% in construction.
Negative gender stereotypes about male nurses and the notion that women are more caring than men were listed as deterrents and barriers for men who wanted to enter aged care.
Chair of ACWIC, Libby Lyons, said the high number of female workers continue to go underpaid despite the clear need for more qualified staff to keep up with demand.
“It is no coincidence that in the aged care workforce, nine out of 10 employees are women,” said Ms Lyons.
“The majority perform essential and rewarding yet low-paid caring roles, with limited opportunities for career progression.
“We are experiencing a workforce crisis in aged care. We need more people to join the sector – and to be paid a decent wage when they do.”
ACWIC last week reignited its push to raise wages by the industry’s desired 25%, a decision which is yet to be made after the Government announced it would roll out the approved 15% pay rise over 18 months.
“Improving wages in sectors that have been historically undervalued, such as aged care, will help to close the gender pay gap and increase the pool of potential workers,” said Ms Lyons.
Not only would increased wages attract more male – and female – workers to aged care, but it would also benefit those CEDA said are impacted by the ‘motherhood penalty’.
The motherhood penalty refers to the loss of income across the first five years of parenting after a woman has a child when women’s earnings decrease by 55%. Men’s earnings are typically left unaffected.
Their ability to return to full-time employment is often impacted by expensive childcare costs and the limited amount of Government payments for fathers of newborns.
As a result, many women move into flexible employment options to balance caring roles which can continue for many years as they look after both their children and often their own ageing parents.
CEDA recommended more organisations focus on providing flexible work – flexible rostering arrangements, shift swapping and parental leave options – especially for men who are less likely to have flexible work targets and are more likely to have flexible leave requests denied.
Ms Lyons said many of these features are already found in aged care as employers understand the needs of their staff, but added it is necessary to provide room for development and growth to support all staff in the long term.
“The best aged care providers are also creating viable career pathways and meaningful jobs that retain workers for the longer term to provide high quality, person-centred care,” said Ms Lyons.
“We now need all employers in the sector to follow suit.”