Aged Care recruitment in the spotlight
A new Royal Commission is putting the Aged Care industry in the spotlight. What will it mean for employers? We explore SEEK data to drill down on employment trends across the sector.

The Australian Aged Care industry

Australia’s population is facing an age-old challenge with a record number of people growing old together. By 2056, an estimated one in four Australians will be aged over 65 and almost two million of them will be older than 85.

The Aged Care industry is growing in line with the older population. It is valued at more than AU$20 billion and employs more than 224,000 staff across more than 1,800 businesses. It is also undergoing increased scrutiny due to recent revelations of abuse in several care facilities, which has led to a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in October last year.

What is the current state of the Aged Care workforce? Is demand outstripping supply and what challenges do employers experience in attracting and retaining the best talent? What changes can we expect from the Royal Commission findings? SEEK’s latest employment trends data provides some of the answers.

Understanding Aged Care candidates

SEEK’s application data shows that the number of candidates applying for roles in Aged Care has risen consistently over the past three years.

Adama Abanteriba, SEEK’s Employment Analyst, expects supply to keep up with growing demand in the short-to-medium term.

“The growth in applications is good news for an industry with increasing demand for workers,” he says. “The number of nursing candidates in Aged Care is a little tight, but generally we are seeing a strong number of candidates across the industry.”

The number of female candidates has been growing at a faster rate than that of males and the sector now effectively attracts seven female applicants for every three male applicants. Abanteriba says this is in line with increased female participation in the workforce and the fact that the industry is dominated by female workers.

The share of males applying for Aged Care roles has declined from 33% in 2016 to 30% in 2018 and the most recent industry data points to males making up approximately 13% of the workforce in aged care.

SEEK’s data also shows that 35% of candidates in the sector applied only for aged and disability roles in a three-month window, which suggests that most candidates are willing to explore other options. In fact, candidates that identify themselves as being part of this sector have applied for over 290 different role types during this period, spanning from engineering and airlines to design and early childhood teaching.

“Candidates in aged care are not a homogenous group,” says Abanteriba. “Some may be looking for part-time or casual roles within the sector while studying an unrelated field, such as engineering, at university.”

Workforce challenges

In contrast to the recent Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, the Royal Commission into Aged Care has not lessened demand for applicants across the sector.

The following chart demonstrates the impact of the announcement of the Royal Commission into Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services on key Banking roles:

By contrast, the chart below shows the job ad volumes across the Aged Care and Disability sector following the announcement of the Royal Commission:

“The underlying demand for Aged Care workers is the ageing population and that’s not going to change,” says Dan Hobson, Director of Hobson Health Recruitment.

Ciaran Foley, CEO of Allambie Heights Village, a retirement village and aged care facility on Sydney's Northern Beaches, says the industry faces several workforce challenges.

“The industry has an ageing workforce approaching retirement, so how can we get older people to work for longer and encourage younger people to join the industry?”

“I believe the industry will need to be more flexible to ensure we can keep workers for longer and engage with schools to get students interested in the industry from a young age. We also need to ensure that the qualifications of the people coming to work for us are of the highest standard,” he says.

Allambie Heights employs approximately 50 people and Foley says its workforce is growing. Workers require a minimum qualification of a Certificate 3 in aged care, disability or child care and Foley expresses a commitment to upskilling the workforce.

“Training is an important aspect of any organisation,” he says. “We have compulsory industry training, plus optional training opportunities. We also support our staff to complete courses to gain additional qualifications.”

Foley adds that qualifications form a baseline at Allambie Heights. “We also look for transferable skills,” he says. “Everybody has to be customer focussed and adaptable. We have people working with us who have come from an accounting background, for example. The industry qualification is essential, but we also look for the right person with the right fit and the right values.”

The impact of the Royal Commission

The Royal Commission is putting industry standards in the spotlight and Hobson is already seeing a greater focus on candidate quality.

“Clients are looking for very high-quality clinical risk candidates, for example,” he says. “They are also becoming more aware of the importance of upskilling staff.”

Foley believes the industry must review its standards now.

“I don’t think we need to wait for the Royal Commission to deliver its report,” he says. “I believe the Commission will say that we need to screen our staff better at the recruitment stage and, once we’ve engaged our staff, that we need to provide greater supervision, feedback and appraisal on an ongoing basis. As an industry, we should be responding now.”

As staffing numbers have come under scrutiny, Abanteriba predicts demand for aged care candidates will grow after the Royal Commission.

“Staff-to-patient ratio numbers may need to increase, so this will lead to greater demand in the market,” he says.

Foley questions the benefit of increased ratio numbers.

“There is no evidence to show that increasing staff ratios improves quality of care,” he says. “What we require is a flexible arrangement where we increase staffing levels to meet the needs of our residents.”

Whether or not patient-to-staff ratios increase after the Royal Commission, Hobson expects salaries to rise.

“I think this will be one of the outcomes of the Royal Commission,” he says. “Healthcare professionals in general are undervalued.”

Foley also expects the Royal Commission to focus on remuneration. “I think the industry needs to consider how we look after our people,” he says.

“Do we just look at salary or do we show appreciation through gifts and financial bonuses when people do a stand-out job?” adds Foley. “This is what we do at Allambie Heights. It’s essential to acknowledge great work, to listen to the views of your people and to encourage a team environment.”