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2020 aged care workforce census data released, workforce getting bigger, younger

The findings of the Health Department's 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census have been released and they tell the tale of an increasing, and increasingly younger, workforce.

This is the fifth census of its kind, following four previous workforce data collections in 2003, 2007, 2012 and 2016.

In 2020, the total number of workers in residential care (RAC) was 277,671, 14 per cent higher than in 2016.

In the Home Care Packages Program (HCPP) there are 80,340 workers and 76,096 in the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP).

In RAC, there was an increase in the number of direct care workers. There are 208,903 staff in direct care roles, and 201,542 of these are employed on a permanent or casual/contractor basis, an increase of 32 per cent since the 2016 census. Most direct care permanent staff work part time (93 per cent). This is higher than in 2016, when this figure was 87 per cent.

Of the RAC direct care staff, 77 per cent are employed in a permanent position with 19 per cent employed in casual or contract positions and four per cent employed as agency staff or sub-contractors.

In the HCPP 64,019 (80 per cent) are direct care staff while there are 59,029 (or 78 per cent) direct care staff in the CHSP.

Pandemic impact

However, due to COVID-19 the number of volunteer workers has fallen dramatically.

In 2020 there were 11,980 volunteer workers in aged care – almost half of the number in 2016 (23,537).

The impact COVID-19 has had on the overall workforce in that period is variable. Most RACs reported no change in the size of their workforce during the pandemic (47 per cent) while 44 per cent saw an increase and 9 per cent reported a decrease in size.

Previous workforce census have shown that the aged care workforce was ageing and older than the national workforce on average. However, that trend changed in 2016 and in 2020 half of RAC workers were aged under 40 years, an increase from around one-third in 2016.

RNs are the youngest, with around 60 per cent of these workers aged below 40 years.

In 2020, the median age for PCWs and ENs in both HCPP and CHSP is younger than in 2016 and lies between 40-49 years (50 per cent of workers in these job roles are aged 40-49 years or younger), while median ages for RNs are the same age as in 2016.

Workforce shortage

At the time of the census there were an estimated 22,000 vacancies in direct care roles across the sector.

In RACs there were 9,404 vacancies, with PCWs making up the most of the staff shortages followed closely by RNs.

Meanwhile, workforce attrition continued to be a problem for RAC providers.

Over the 12 months from November 2019 to November 2020 providers reported that 29 per cent of all workers they employed in these roles as at November 2019 had left their employment as at 23 November 2020.

The turnover of NPs and RNs was higher than that of other roles, with 37 per cent having left their employment over the 12-month period.

Eighty per cent of providers reported that they had an RN rostered on duty overnight every day in the last fortnight, while a further 9 per cent said they had an RN on call overnight every day in this period.

As for provider management, RAC facilities are much more likely to come from a nursing background than a business background, with a bachelor’s degree in nursing or postgraduate nursing qualifications more common than business management or administration.

The most common qualifications for care managers in HCPP were also in nursing, while in CHSP care managers were most likely to hold qualifications in business management.

Aged Care Services minister Richard Colbeck said the census shows that efforts to attract younger people to the workforce are bearing fruit. He said that the data now provides a benchmark for the government as it continues to drive generational reform.

“Right across the aged care sector we continue to see examples of a workforce that is determined to make individual care a priority,” Colbeck said.

“We are investing $652.1 million in growing and skilling the workforce. Aged care workers are the engine room of the reforms and key to ensuring respect, care and dignity for senior Australians.

“The census also benchmarks the attributes and skills central to the delivery of quality aged care – a useful reference for us as we move through our $17.7 billion, five year, five pillar reform of aged care.”

The full census can be read here.

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