Aged care is highlighting its variety of roles and flexibility to suit older workers, as the sector encourages the mature workforce.
The Aged Care Workforce Industry Council chief executive officer Louise O’Neill told Inside Ageing they wanted people from all backgrounds and age groups to join aged care, noting older workers brought a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills.
“Many older workers will already have skills that they can put to fabulous use in aged care – interpersonal skills, customer service, caring, organising schedules and activities,” she said.
“Therefore they can hit the ground running and start making a positive difference on their first day.”
The call comes after research from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) found older workers were a growing proportion of the workforce.
The research, Tapping into Australia’s ageing workforce: Insights from recent research, found structural barriers remained that hindered mature workforce participation such as inflexible work arrangements to cater for carers, retirement systems that had the effect of disincentivising part-time work, and discrimination.
Ms O’Neill said the Council supported the research findings and pointed to the A Matter of Care report as a roadmap to overcome structural challenges.
“If older workers are to thrive and prosper in the aged care sector, then we need to address the known barriers within aged care such as stigma, training and work conditions,” she said.
“Employers need to have the right strategies in place to recruit, deploy, and retain their staff.”
She said there were many subsidised training places available following Australian Government funding in this year’s Budget, and encouraged older workers to get their qualifications.
She also said the sector afforded flexibility and variety in its roles, allowing people to utilise the skills they have built up over a lifetime.
“We see many benefits for older workers working in aged care,” she said.
“Older workers will have the opportunity to ‘Bring their thing’ to work each and every day and make a positive difference.
“Their thing may include their extensive life experience [such as] travel, raising children, caring for grandchildren or their own parents, as well as the skills and knowledge that they have acquired [like] gardening, engineering, playing an instrument.
“They will also experience the satisfaction of providing high quality care to our older Australians.”
The CEPAR report highlighted the ways the industry can accommodate and recruit ageing Australians, a necessary task with two out of five adult Australians expected to be aged over 55 years in 2050.
They revealed women re-entering work and delayed retirements were behind a more than doubling of the share of the workforce aged over 55 years from 9 per cent in 1991 to 19 per cent in 2021.
Lead author and economist Rafal Chomik, a CEPAR Senior Research Fellow at the UNSW Business School said older Australians were a critical part of the workforce and the economy.
“Given the right opportunities, older workers could offset the adverse economic impacts of population ageing,” he said.
“If they are to thrive and prosper in the labour market, then Australia – compared to other countries – needs to do better to dismantle remaining barriers related to health, care, training, discrimination, and work conditions, and also to ensure that employers have the right strategies to recruit, deploy, and retain them. There’s now good research pointing the way forward.”
Employers needed to create an inclusive, individual and integrated framework to manage multigenerational workforces.
“A greater potential supply of labour from older people is not enough,” the report said. “It also requires an increase in demand for such labour.”
CEPAR’s Chief Investigator Professor Sharon Parker and Senior Research Fellow Dr Daniela Andrei, based at Curtin University’s Future of Work Institute developed an evidence-based framework to recruit, deploy, and retain workers.
Professor Sharon Parker said despite the known benefits, “many organisations remain reluctant to recruit mature workers and, when they do, there are few policies and practices in place to support them”.
The report also found older workers were also more likely to suffer from the short-term shocks of recessions – such as the pandemic – as they take longer to find work after job losses.
“Low labour demand means more of them retire. Long-term structural change can also raise the risk of leaving older cohorts behind unless they receive the right support, including lifelong learning,” the report said.
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