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Findings of the National Aged Care Workforce Report 2016

Newsletter 16 May 2017

In March 2017 the Department of Health and Ageing (‘the Department’) released the National Aged Care Workforce Report 2016 (‘the Report’).  The Report sets out the findings of research undertaken by the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University on behalf of the Department, based on information obtained from over 4,500 aged care facilities and 15,000 aged care workers as at 2016.

Who is working in aged care and how has this changed?

The Report estimates that there were approximately 366,027 PAYG aged care workers as at 2016, representing a 4% increase in the number of workers since 2012.  Of these, approximately 235,674 were employed in residential facilities and 130,263 in home care and home support outlets.  The research indicates that a significant majority of these workers were employed in roles involving direct care as opposed to non-direct care.

The Report findings indicate that only a small minority of workers become involved in aged care as a first occupation.  With the exception of nursing, the Report was unable to identify any clear pathways into aged care for other occupational groups, with workers drawn from a range of other industries.

Almost 90% of aged care workers employed in direct care are female and the median age of these workers was 49 years, which is higher than the national average for employees.  When compared to 2012, the residential aged care workforce is getting younger and the home care/support workforce is getting older.  80% are employed on a permanent and part-time basis.  The findings of the Report support that the aged care workers involved in the research were generally in good health, had high levels of post-school education and training, and that only a small minority expressed an intention to leave the sector within 12 months indicating a generally stable workforce. 

There is widespread use of volunteer staff in the aged care sector, with 83% of residential facilities and 51% of home care/support facilities using the service of volunteers.

According to the findings in the Report, job satisfaction in 2016 was high across all work aspects excluding pay.  Home care and home support workers reported greater job satisfaction for time available to care for clients and having freedom in their work and less stress and pressure than workers in residential care.

How are aged care facilities changing?

The research results indicate that, as at 2016, the average size of residential aged care facilities had remained consistent since 2012, whilst the size of home care/support outlets had grown.  A growing number of residential facilities (80%) belong to a large provider group.  The number of facilities and outlets offering both residential and home care/support had decreased since 2012, indicating that facilities/outlets are becoming increasingly specialised in their respective sectors.

A number of facilities who were surveyed expressed concern about managing staffing levels, predominantly due to funding constraints.  The responses support that there continues to be a shortage of Registered Nurses working within the aged care sector.

Emerging issues in the aged care workforce              

It has been estimated by the Productivity Commission that the aged care workforce will need to have grown to around 980,000 workers by 2050.  

The Report findings indicate that large outlets providing home care/support are expanding their workforce at a higher rate than small outlets which potentially creates an issue of market power, particularly in the rural context.  The findings also indicate that residential facilities are using a lower ratio of direct care staff as they grow, which may have implications for the quality of the care that is being provided.

Whilst aged care workers expressed strong perceptions that insufficient staff numbers, higher workloads and the replacement of registered nurses with less qualified staff is impacting negatively on resident care in some facilities, this was not supported by the workforce data which indicated that overall staffing ratios and the proportion of registered nurses in the residential sector has remained constant since 2012. 

Aged care workers also expressed concern about recent aged care reforms, including the introduction of Consumer Directed Care, and the impact the reforms may have on working conditions and employment.  The Report recommends that the impact of the changes be monitored and addressed to promote ongoing stability within the aged care workforce.

The Report reviewed potential workforce competition between the aged care and disability sectors, and found that there is presently little interaction between the two sectors.  With the rolling out of the full National Disability Insurance Scheme over the next two to three years it is anticipated that this may have a substantial impact on the aged care workforce, as the interaction between the two sectors is expected to increase.

The Report found that in 2016 there was a lower level of work related training for aged care workers when compared to 2012, and that there was a particular lack of access to training for workers in regional and rural areas.  Priority areas identified in the Report for future training included dementia, palliative care and mental health in home care/support.

Dominique Egan, Partner

Zoe Hamilton, Associate


Newsletter 16 May 2017
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