Aged-care workers currently care for more than 1.3 million Australians, both in the home and in residential settings. But as more Australians enter old age, we have failed to prepare for the human challenge at the centre of aged care by building a workforce that is both big enough and well-equipped to meet community expectations. As demand has soared amid major constraints on supply, there has been no comprehensive action to bring the two into balance.

Demand for workers is rapidly increasing due to demographic changes, increases to minimum staffing levels and new funding to address unmet demand. At the same time, low wages, a lack of career progression and poor training outcomes, combined with negative public perceptions of the industry, are constraining the supply of workers. The recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, while critically important, further add to demand with the need for more care at a higher quality. If the workforce continues expanding at its current glacial pace, CEDA estimates that within the next decade there will be a shortage of 110,000 direct aged-care workers, and by 2050 more than 400,000 workers. Direct-care workers include personal-care assistants, nurses and allied-health staff (such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists amongst others).

To change direction and secure the workforce we need, Australia must take dramatic action now. We will need at least 17,000 more direct aged-care workers each year in the next decade just to meet basic standards of care. This challenge can’t be met with a single solution – all available levers will need to be pulled.

Key recommendations:

  • Better wages and working conditions;
  • Getting more people into training, improving training outcomes and investing in ongoing development;
  • Continued migration, with new paths to attract high-quality, motivated workers;
  • Investment in new technology that reduces the burden on staff and improves care outcomes; and
  • Knowledge sharing and promotion of the industry.
Related Information

Duty of care: aged care sector in crisis

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