Australia’s care industry is staring down a worse-than-anticipated workforce shortage crisis with an expected shortfall of over 200,000 full-time care workers by 2050, according to a “secret” report benched by the previous Liberal Government.
The Government’s Care Workforce Labour Market Study report predicts 531,600 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions will need to be filled by 2050, but the nation will fall 211,400 FTE positions short.
With half of the care workforce expected to leave in the next three years, Australia’s ageing population and shrinking workforce supply is likely to increase challenges.
The gap balloons to 285,800 individual workers on a headcount basis taking into account the actual number of staff required to meet the average working hours of part-time or casual roles.
Skill level 4 occupations – aged and disabled carers and nursing support and personal care workers – will apparently be hardest hit by future workforce supply issues.
The report was initiated by the Liberal Government in March 2021 and finalised in September 2021, however, Scott Morrison’s Government reportedly kept it a secret by not releasing the findings straight away.
Labor Government Skills Minister, Brendan O’Connor, released an updated version of the report on Monday, revealing that there is an expected short-term shortfall of 100,000 aged care, disability and mental health workers by 2028.
“It was kept secret because the Liberal Government wanted to avoid dealing with the growing crisis facing the care workforce, particularly aged care, disability care, and care and support in mental health,” Minister O’Connor said.
“Australians deserve to know the truth. Locking a report in a drawer won’t trick Australians, who know there is a challenge that needs to be confronted.”
National Skills Commissioner, Adam Boyton, recently stated that COVID-19 has impacted the initial findings from 12 months ago and that “the forecast gaps would be both larger than anticipated and would emerge even more quickly than noted in the study”.
The report also suggests “there is limited evidence of a significant workforce shortage in the care and support sector at the national level at the current time”, instead indicating that existing issues stem from low wages and skills shortages.
Concerns listed in the report include workers dealing with low average hours and below average pay, which in some cases is $523 lower than the average Australian weekly income of $1,769.80.
Employers are struggling to attract skilled and qualified staff, as well as experienced workers who need to relocate for a role.
There is no “single solution” to solving any supply and demand concerns, with “public perception, new articulations of job design and architecture, technology adoption and innovation rates” listed alongside economic improvement to support the care support workforce.
The Government will fund a proposed aged care wage increase, which is currently sitting before the Fair Work Commission. Unions are calling for a 25% pay increase.
Minister O’Connor said his priority is establishing the Jobs and Skills Australia body to “fast-track improved workforce planning” for the care sector.