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Future workforce planning by the aged care industry must incorporate all roles within an organisation and consider the global context of labour supply and demand, the Minister for Aged Care has warned.

In response to the aged care workforce census released yesterday, the Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM said the industry needs to think more broadly about the career opportunities it can offer young people and not just focus on nursing and personal care.

“We tend to focus on workforce as being those who care for people, but if we’re going to develop pathways into aged care for young people what other jobs are there?,” the Minister said in an exclusive interview with Inside Ageing.

“You’ve got to then think about the clerical work, the administration, the gardener, through to the cooks. There’s a whole gamut of jobs in aged care.”

“So I want to look at the total construct. I just don’t want to focus on having a ratio of nurses or a ratio of care givers – they are extremely important – but I also want to look at opportunities for people to work within aged care in the total context of every position within that aged care facility,” he said.

“I think the other area that is going to emerge with technology is the opportunity for young people to become the technical and IT people that will run systems that aged care providers put in place.”

While ACSA and LASA recently put a proposal to Government to develop an industry-led workforce strategy, the Minister said the issue needs to be considered in a much broader context.

“In the discussion I want to have with them [ACSA and LASA] I want them to focus on the totality of the workforce because I think another challenge for our country is the ageing population and the number of people left remaining in the workforce.”

“We also have levels of disability that reduces the number of people eligible to work in certain jobs.”

“Western countries are going under the population line so we won’t be able to rely exclusively on migration into our country without tearing the heart out of some other nations,” he said.

“We could strip Africa of its skilled people but then what do we leave behind? A population that then struggles because they don’t have the skilled workforce they equally need.”

“So we’re going to have to balance what it is that we want and need, and then what we are capable of providing in that context.”

“So it’s not as straight forward because the same challenge then applies for every other sector of the workforce. Aged care, NDIS, early childhood, nurses within hospitals, health workforces.”

The Minister said competition from overseas companies wanting to employ Australian workers is also going to impact the aged care industry and the broader workforce, particularly in places like China where the scale of demand for skilled workers is so high.

“There are other opportunities globally that are starting to emerge out of free trade agreements,” he said.

“If China goes into providing aged care and want Australian workers and they offer good salaries, people will go.”

“If they offer an opportunity to work in China for five years, people will go.”

“Because they’re talking about aged care facilities are substantially larger than ours so they’ll need a decent workforce but in that they also have to build the capability of the Chinese community to take over the roles from Australians. So workforce isn’t as straight forward.”

A senate inquiry into the future of Australia’s aged care workforce has been underway for more than a year though its final report has been delayed until late June.