Basic aged care standards will tank in Australia without more workers

By Melissa Coade

June 28, 2022

aged-care-elderly-nursing home
CEDA says the projected aged care staffing shortfall has doubled from 17,000 last year to 35,000 places today. (Rawpixel.com/Adobe)

The staff shortage for Australia’s aged care sector will hit home with nobody to perform at least 35,000 direct roles in 2022, according to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).

The independent think tank released new data on Tuesday, saying the projected aged care staffing shortfall has doubled from 17,000 last year to 35,000 places today. 

CEDA senior economist Cassandra Winzar said the gap meant the basic aged care service standards recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety would not be met. 

She pointed to a combination of pandemic challenges and lack of government intervention as reasons for the dire workforce projection. 

“Miniscule levels of migration and increased levels of attrition in the sector, estimated to be around 65,000 workers a year, have exacerbated existing shortages,” Winzar said. 

“The aged care workforce was already under significant pressure, with staff shortages, low pay, poor working conditions and increased negative attention through the Royal Commission. Over the past year, COVID-19 has amplified these pressures.”

Prime minister Anthony Albanese said more 24/7 registered nurses would be placed in residential aged care and deliver longer mandated care time. But, Winzar noted, these announcements by the new federal government would be hard to achieve without a ‘turnaround’ in workforce numbers. 

“Providing care levels at international best practice standard would require a further increase in the workforce.

“Importantly, meeting the goal of an extra 35,000 workers will only get Australian aged care to basic levels of care,” Winzar said. 

“Filling this shortfall will not be achieved without determined and consistent effort which must start now.”

The economist added that with virus outbreaks in aged care workplaces a common occurrence, and a high number of staff themselves falling ill, employees were burnt out and facing breaking-point. 

CEDA’s latest data release updates projections, based on industry consultation, published in a report last August. The report included 18 recommendations to help boost workforce numbers for the sector.

The Duty of care: Aged care sector in crisis report called on the government, employers and unions to collaborate to increase award wages in the sector through the Fair Work Commission’s work value case, and develop low-cost retraining options for people returning to the industry. 

The report also suggested personal-care workers should be recruited directly by adding them to the temporary or permanent skilled-migration lists, or by introducing a new ‘essential skills’ visa.


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