Improving the health of older aged care workers

28 October 2019

By Aaron Hart, Dina Bowman and Shelley Mallett, 2019

This study of older ‘pink collar’ workers in aged care points to the need for policy and practice changes to ensure Australia has enough skilled workers to provide quality care and to protect and support the physical and emotional health of those workers.

The study is situated at the confluence of three policy concerns. The first arises from a push to extend the working lives and the participation of older adults in the labour force. Policy makers have argued that this is a justified response to the cost of supporting an ageing population. The second concern is with the effects on workers when aged care is conceptualised as a marketplace in which consumers make informed decisions about the care they wish to receive. Our third concern is with the crisis in the aged care workforce. Maintaining and developing this workforce is critical, and requires a focus on job quality and employment conditions.

Our findings suggest that the health of older aged care workers can be improved—and in some instances, working lives extended—through three measures.

  • mandatory minimum hours of care per client in residential facilities
  • employment conditions to improve ‘time and income capability’
  • a professionalisation agenda with three elements: professional registration, clinical supervision, and training for specialist roles.

This small study is one component of the larger Working Well Working Wisely project funded by the Australian Research Council. 

The ARC Linkage project comprises five studies, each taking a different approach to informing policy development around older workers and their workplaces. It brings together researchers from the Australian National University, the federal departments of Social Services and Employment, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the University of Melbourne, Safe Work Australia and Queensland Treasury.

Read the report Improving the health of older aged care workers (PDF, 437 KB)

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