Australia is facing a shortfall of at least 110,000 aged care workers within a decade – or 400,000 workers by 2050 – unless urgent action is taken to boost the workforce now, a new report has warned.
Australia will need 17,000 more direct aged care workers every year simply to meet basic standards of care, according to a new report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).
Direct care workers include nurses, allied health and personal care assistants.
PCAs make up 75% of the workforce. Direct care roles in aged care are filled 90% by female staff, 30% are born overseas and 13% have no qualifications.
The report says aged care workers enter the workforce through training, migration and from other sectors.
But with attrition rates at 18%, the industry needs a gross increase of around 65,000 workers.
The report, titled ‘Duty of care: Meeting the aged care workforce challenge’, suggests older Australians will not be able to age with dignity if workforce issues are not addressed.
CEDA chief economist, Jarrod Ball, says Australia has failed to prepare for the challenge, despite the fact the problem has been widely anticipated following multiple inquiries and the nation’s demographic trajectory being understood for decades.
“These projections are based on conservative assumptions, and the situation may prove to be even more dire than this,” he warned
By 2031, nearly 20% of the population is expected to be aged over 65, up from around 16% now, meaning demand for care will only keep growing.
“We have not come anywhere near the growth in workers we need to meet demand.”
Australia spends around the OECD average on aged care, but well below the average of countries known for high quality care, such as the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries and Japan.
CEDA has made 18 recommendations for the sector, including:
The report’s author, senior economist Cassandra Winzar, said addressing working conditions is the first step to boosting attraction and retention in the industry – factors central to fixing the workforce challenge.
“The Federal Government has committed to raising the minimum daily staff time per resident to 200 minutes,” Ms Winzar said.
“While this is an improvement, it will only get us to the bare minimum of acceptable care by global standards.