Feb 07, 2019

Why Are Aged Care And Disability Services So Reliant On Overseas-Born Workers?

In terms of difficulty and responsibility, there are very few jobs that rival what our aged care workers and disability care workers have to contend with.

Unfortunately, a new study from the UNSW is showing clear signs that despite the demands and importance of their jobs, aged and disability carers are being paid less on average than the rest of the Australian workforce.

According to research, the average aged and disability carer has a median income ranging between $500-649 per week ($26,000-$33,799 annually) while the median average income for the rest of the Australian workforce has been calculated somewhere between $1,000-$1,249 per week ($52,000- $64,000 annually.)

While statistics like this point to the obvious lack of importance and value being given to Australia’s most vulnerable people, it also raises another question; who would be willing to do an extremely difficult job that doesn’t pay very well?

And the answer to that question is simple. Good people.

There are people who choose this path do so for a variety of different reasons, but unfortunately for some of them, a lack of other employment opportunities can be one of them.

The aged and disability care workforce is full of statistical anomalies and two of the statistics that stand out are both the age and gender of the carers currently employed.

A whopping 80.1% of aged and disability carers are female, compared to the 47.5% of the workforce that women normally occupy. And the average age of workers is 47 years old, compared to an average age of 40, for the rest of the general workforce.

Its well documented that finding new employment opportunities becomes far more difficult as a person approaches their 50’s, with most employers looking to hire people who are younger in age.

And women fall victim to this type of ageist negative stereotyping far more than their male counterparts.

Aged and disability care are two of the career opportunities that are readily available to older women, and the lack of employment opportunities is one of the many reasons that they are forced to put up with difficult working conditions and accept a lower grade of pay.

A lack of other employment opportunities is definitely not always the reason for a person becoming an aged or disability carer, the lack of financial reward coupled with the responsibility is certainly a deterrent for many.


Foreign Flavoured Care

Australia is the epitome of a multicultural country.

Since 1945, almost seven million people from all corners of the globe have decided to call Australia home, and this influx of fresh faces and ideas has become embedded in our countries DNA.

Australia is for everybody.

Overseas-born workers make up 37% of the people currently employed to deliver aged and disability care, and they also account for 50.2% of the people being employed as personal care assistants.

In some respects, having such a high percentage of aged and disability carers being born overseas makes sense, when you take into account that most statistics point to one in four current Australians being born on foreign shores.

Communication can be hard enough for the elderly and disabled, so having workers that can navigate the language barriers for residents/clients with limited English skillsets, can help to ensure that their thoughts and needs are being met.

But according to evidence from within the UNSW study, a large percentage of these overseas-born workers are actually students, many of which that are on temporary visas.

This high percentage of overseas-born students means that not only are they younger in age when compared to the rest of the aged and disability care sector, they are also better-educated.

One in four of these workers currently hold a bachelor’s degree, compared to roughly one in 12 of their Australian-born-co-workers, and overseas-born aged and disability carers are actually 10 times more likely to hold a postgraduate degree than their Australian born peers.


Currently, 26.4% of aged and disability carers were born in non-main English-speaking countries, compared to 20.1% across the total workforce. The top ten countries of birth for those born overseas are England, India, the Philippines, New Zealand, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Kenya.

And for the majority of these people, English is a second language rather than their native tongue.

Not having English as a first language can inhibit the nuances of communication and can have a definite effect on a person’s employment prospects, despite any above average education that they may have.

Unfortunately, one of the main reasons that overseas-born people make up such a large percentage of the aged and disability care workforce is the simple fact that they are actually willing to do the job.

Caring for the elderly and disabled members of society is not exactly a glamour job, and the complexity and varied needs of these people often lead to young people avoiding these sectors as a career path.

And when you combine that with below average wages, you end up with a scenario that is geared towards ‘who is willing to do this job?’ rather than ‘who is the best person to do this job?’

And while it is fantastic that older women and Australians born-overseas do have a solid option in terms of career because of these industries, it’s a shame that the negatives involved in the job are dictating the number of available options.

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  1. Just because someone is university educated does not mean they are a fit for the job or even happy to undertake the role In my experience a great number of overseas staff find working in aged care with a prior degree beneath them and one in which they can manipulate to their advantage How many go from a morning shift straight to a pm shift where residents are too bed by 5 so that staff can take it easy for their second shift for the day Being a good person is not a pre rec for the job in fact it bears no significance to the job it’s about doing your job well having the right skill set and training and wanting to deliver the best care of the highest standard


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