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Workforce survey paints positive picture

The total residential workforce grew by 17 per cent since 2012, snapshot shows

The eagerly-awaited results of the aged care workforce census show the residential sector has grown substantially, with current recruitment and retention approaches “working well.”

The total number of workers across residential and community care increased 4 per cent since the last survey in 2012 to more than 366,000 staff, according to the latest Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey, released on Monday.

The latest snapshot showed the total residential workforce grew by 17 per cent since 2012, employing more than 235,000 workers.

The number of direct care workers increased by 5 per cent in residential aged care to more than 153,000 workers, but it fell 7 per cent in home care and home support, to 86,463 workers.

The researchers said this reduction in community care workers “may cause concern.”

The latest census and survey is based on responses from 2,240 aged care facilities and 2,307 home care and home support outlets. The snapshot also included an analysis of data provided by the Department of Health, as well as in-depth interviews with frontline workers.

The census and survey is undertaken by the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University.

Growth in care workers

Echoing earlier surveys, the 2016 snapshot reported that residential aged care facilities continue to increasingly rely on personal care workers to provide direct care to residents.

“There has been some increase in the number of registered nurses, but there has been a corresponding and larger fall in the number of enrolled nurses,” the report said.

Personal care workers remained the largest group in the direct care workforce (70 per cent) and continued to grow “both numerically and as a proportion of the residential aged care workforce,” the snapshot said.

The number of RNs rose by 539 between 2012 and 2016, but the number of ENs fell by 1,218. While the proportion of RNs stayed unchanged at 15 per cent of the workforce, the share of ENs decreased from 12 per cent to 10 per cent.

Who’s who in the workforce

Drop in casuals but underemployment persists

The latest survey showed a reduction in casual employment in the aged care sector.

In residential care, 10 per cent of direct care workers were on a casual or contract arrangement in 2016, down from 19 per cent in 2012.

However, the survey also found indications of “potentially under-utilised labour supply” as 30 per cent of workers wanted to increase their hours, compared to 14 per cent who wanted to reduce them.

The extent of workers holding multiple jobs provided further evidence of “spare capacity” within the existing workforce, the snapshot said.

“In 2016, 9 per cent of residential workers and 16 per cent of home care and home support workers had more than one job, compared to 5 per cent of the whole Australian workforce.”

Most of the additional jobs worked by these staff were within the aged and disability care sectors, the survey found.

Workforce is stable, committed

Overall, the researchers said the results showed the aged care workforce is “both stable and committed.”

“Workers report relatively high levels of job satisfaction and a large majority wish to stay working in the sector,” they said.

Nonetheless, negative perceptions of aged care work as an occupation of low pay and status remained, the survey found.

“Given the need for the expansion of the aged care workforce, this issue must be addressed,” it said.

Pay remains a key issue

When asked about their satisfaction with specific aspects of the job, aged care workers were least satisfied with their total pay and with the time available to them to care for residents.

Workers are least satisfied with their pay

Residential workforce getting younger

In terms of workforce characteristics, the latest snapshot reported that “the residential workforce is getting younger while the home care workforce is getting older.”

In residential care, the proportion of direct care workers aged 55 or over remained stable in the latest survey (at 27 per cent), but the proportion of those aged under 35 years had risen to 25 per cent in 2016 from 19 per cent in 2012.

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in the residential direct care workforce stayed unchanged, at 1 per cent of the workforce.

Although aged care remains a female dominated sector, the proportion of males in the workforce continued to grow. The latest snapshot showed men make up 13 per cent of direct care workers in residential care and 11 per cent in home care.

Read the full workforce census and survey here

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6 Responses to Workforce survey paints positive picture

  1. Andrew Crane April 6, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

    Statistics are an interesting beast. The impression this data gives is that all is rosy in terms of workforce in the Aged Care sector, but what it fails to mention is any correlation of workforce data to the number of people receiving Aged Care and the satisfaction levels of the workforce.

    That data reveals a different picture, one where the ratio’s of staff to those in care is falling, and not surprisingly so are perceived working conditions.

    The workforce is simply not keeping pace with the demand, and the industry is simply not devoting the required resources to the provision of an adequate workforce because legislative requirements to do so are weak.

    The picture is not rosy. If we keep the current trend standards of care are going to fall faster than they already are.

  2. Kylie Wise April 9, 2017 at 5:00 pm #

    Anyone who completed the survey would attest to the very narrow scope of the questions. These results don’t provide any useful information regarding workload, ratios or other conditions that directly impact on our workforce.

    We already knew our workforce is committed…they’re hardly in it for the money and glamour!

    No startling revelations about low pay, low status and insufficient time to do the job, either.

    So, what measures will be implemented to address these (longstanding) issues? My guess is zero…but rest assured there’ll be another survey in a few years. Unless these surveys result in tangible strategies that generate real change, why bother?

  3. Louise April 10, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

    Oh dear ANOTHER survey that delivers well nothing, yet again. Survey after survey, however listening to those who are dedicated in providing care on the ground is not given an ear.
    Surveys as we know can show different outcomes, it is all based on the questions asked. Example – my mother failed a cognitive test as she could not highlight past Prime Ministers of Australia, difficult for my mother who came to Australia in the late 50’s and worked hard in factories to make a new life for her family. However ask her what to plant in the garden according to the moon cycle and not a problem – wondering how many experts of aged care could answer that question and she speaks 5 languages!
    This is just to prove that the questions asked are important.
    As has been highlighted time and time again, workforce staff to resident ratio’s are appalling and getting worse which affects the standard of care. Pay rate is appalling – we just lost an excellent person who wishes to stay in care however newly married, receiving $21.00 per hour however can stack shelves with permanent part time shift at $33.00 per hour – where is the justice when as care workers we have more responsibilities.
    This has been talked about for years but nothing is happening – there is a hole in the bucket dear Liza dear Liza – but governments and groups keep on pouring more water on top without thinking to fix the hole in the bucket.

  4. Caroline April 17, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

    i was not part of the cohort of those surveyed but have worked a reasonable number of years with an interest in the workforce to suggest that there’s a serious under-representation of certain aged care workers. These surveys, as others have indicated, are meaningless without real strategic reform and change. So the residential workforce is younger. But how long do the workers remain in a facility or residential care? What are their options to improve career pathways? How do workers care for older people where there’s a cultural mismatch? I can attest that this is problematic in the community care sector but that it can work with close support between workers and clients. Who has the resources to make this happen? How are workers who have skills recognised? Do we value workers with solid tertiary qualifications? What pathways do we offer workers who improve their qualifications beyond Cert 3? Who has actually investigated the amount of work that is involved in managing the care of a person in an RACF or with packaged care? What do we really know about careworkers at the coalface? Where is the research that explores and investigates care workers’ experiences? Are they merely the responsibility of their employing organisations? Quality of care is largely the outcome of people who use a range of interactive skills of caregiving. What do we know about these qualities and skills that influence care?

    About time we looked beyond the surface to explore the real issues and respond to them.

  5. Caroline April 17, 2017 at 8:27 pm #

    The summary in the abstract needs another response…

    Stable and committed: both relative terms but my experience more recently is that the workforce is not stable; and that there is a high turnover of staff that does not create stability for the organisation nor older people. Committed? well that depends on whose perspective is in question. I may be committed to the aged care sector but that doesn’t mean workers should not be paid in line with their qualification, knowledge and experiences. That’s a story repeated across several workers. Some of us stay because we are getting older and it is probably an industry with a slightly better chance of portability of skills that is hardly transferable to a non-care industry as one gets older.

    Retention and attraction: this is a major issue and CDC and evolving reforms will not create stability. No hurdles that the market can’t sort? As long as we only focus on direct care workers, yes no problem because they are dispensable. But let’s remember that the aged care workforce is made up of many more who are in non direct care. We need to think beyond 2017 to a workforce that is both older and younger and who can continue to contribute a range of skills to this sector

  6. Muriel Masters April 18, 2017 at 9:10 pm #

    ‘Stable & Committed’……( would love to know which organizations participated and where they are located) ……yes very easy to agree with Caroline.

    My experience in the workplace is also similar, with an increasing high turnover of staff and no surprise this is the ‘younger staff’.

    This is understandable given the workload, pressure, time constraints, ridiculous resident/staff ratios (which we are also assured is ‘up there with every other facility’) and ever increasing demands expected in residential care.

    Majority of young staff (PCW’s) do not last the distance as they are not prepared to be employed under these extreme working conditions. Many opt out and veer towards ‘therapy assistants’, home care workers or choose further study which is often EN course. Due to their age and their expected working longevity young PCW’s frequently choose another direction for employment.

    25% turnover in staff is the reality of this industry – so this is hardly ‘stable or committed.’ In fact this is worrying – 1 out of every 4 staff leave (and no it is not always due to retirement).

    In my opinion it is the ‘older, long term staff’ who often provide the majority of support & care to residents and very often do the more ‘physical/hands on work’ associated with the role. Most times this is due to a resident requesting them or refusing the care provided by another preferring a staff member they know & feel comfortable with.

    I see this on a daily basis where the older, more experienced worker is often doing the ‘bulk’ of the work in a residential facility whilst the younger PCW is often at a keyboard – yet both staff are paid equally. it is an expectation that older workers must ‘train’ the new ones. It seems in aged care that longevity, experience does not count for anything when it comes to wages.

    I wonder what the next survey will reveal when many of those that are >55 yrs have left the industry due to age/injuries/stress/workload etc.

    Sadly I fear that this ‘survey’ is yet another Govt subsided/funded survey that provides no solutions to the current workforce crisis and was created in such a way to ensure a ‘positive picture of the industry’ would be demonstrated.

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