The Productivity Commission has released a new report recommending that the Australian government establish a new visa subclass for aged and disability care workers. The report notes that while 30% of aged care workers are migrants, less than 1% are sponsored for employment in the sector. Instead, 38% of migrants in care services are on student visas and come into the sector as ‘sideways entrants’. The visa subclass should be a pilot and include a condition that the applicant needs to remain employed in the relevant sector for four years. Inside Ageing recently wrote about the Vocational Education Training sector and its benefits for aged care.
The report also suggests that a new funding model for aged care could be the key to attracting more workers. The Commission proposes re-balancing public and private contributions to create a sustainable source of revenue. This could include a universal competitive mandatory insurance scheme, with the combined private and public funding set at a level sufficient to pay wages that would attract workers to aged care from either Australian citizens or, where wages were high enough, from the new skilled visa streams.
The report highlights the need to improve the efficient delivery of care services and the challenge of attracting workers to the sector. With only aged care Registered Nurses currently listed on the Department of Home Affairs’ Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List, the new visa subclass for aged and disability care workers could provide a stop-gap solution to workforce shortages. However, a re-weighting of the funding model towards a higher level of consumer contributions could negate the need for the new visa.
The Productivity Commission’s report makes 71 recommendations aimed at growing Australia’s economy and increasing the prosperity of individuals around five key themes. These include building an adaptable workforce, harnessing data and digital technology, creating a more dynamic economy by fostering competition and efficiency, lifting productivity in the “non-market sector” – including care services, and transitioning to net zero at the lowest cost.