Above: Dr Deborah King from the National Institute of Labour Studies
By Yasmin Noone
Men could provide a solution to the sector’s chronic recruitment woes, potentially closing up staffing gaps which are currently being filled by migrant aged care workers.
Senior research fellow at the National Institute of Labour Studies, Dr Deborah King, encouraged providers to pick a solution to their workforce issues from outside the box and change their recruitment ways, at the Living on a low income and care later in life forum, presented by Anglicare Australia and United Voice in Canberra yesterday.
Given that workforce shortages are already evident, Dr King asked, “Where will we find the required workers?”
“Migration is not the answer to workforce issues.
“Why can’t we think of recruiting men?”
Male workers, she said, could be the untapped market that the female-dominated sector is looking for. Older, experienced employees aged over 65 years could also prove to be a viable recruitment option.
Dr King advocated for the sector to pay staff better, improve current working conditions and provide incentives for staff to stay in the sector and move up in their career.
“Just make aged care a better place to work in.
“We can only do that through radical change and it won’t be painless.”
The aged care workforce needs to grow in response to increased demand and the Productivity Commission’s (PC) proposed changes to the model of aged care. The big question that Dr King asks is how?
“The PC is advocating all of this stuff but when it gets to the workforce chapter, it drops out. That’s what I’m concerned about.
“[…The report] doesn’t follow through with all the recommendations in the report [or say] what the changes will mean for the workforce.
“How does a change in the model of care affect the workforce?
The PC, she said, needs to propose how the sector should source new aged care workers and retain current employees.
Dr King also believes that the providers could attract new workers if it sector got the mix between acute, palliative and aged care right; if community care and aged care staff dealt with workforce issues together; and if overlapping disability and aged care services were integrated.
The sector must also change the image of aged care: “This isn’t impossible. It requires political will and direction and energy from the sector.
“The PC recommendations alone won’t create a good [aged care] workforce.”