Aaron Hart, Dina Bowman and Shelley Mallett

How can we ensure Australia will have enough skilled workers to provide quality aged care while supporting the emotional and physical health of older ‘pink-collar’ workers?

At a glance

This joint investigation by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence and the University of Melbourne explored the working conditions of older workers in the aged care sector.

‘Pink-collar’ workers, or those working in care-related roles that require less than a bachelor’s degree, are among those now expected to work longer before being eligible for a pension. Working longer is hard, however, for aged care workers.

This study suggests that the health of older aged care workers could be improved—including extending work lives for some—through three measures:

  • mandatory minimum hours of care per client in residential facilities
  • employment conditions to improve ‘time and income capability’
  • an agenda that supports professional registration to improve independence in work and care quality, clinical supervision to address emotional depletion, and training and supervision for specialist roles.

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

Dive deeper

Our study sits at the centre 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 surrounds the effects on workers when aged care is conceptualised as a marketplace, in which consumers have to make informed decisions about the care they wish to receive.

Our third concern is with the crisis in the aged care workforce, as Australia’s ageing population increases demand for services. Maintaining and developing this workforce is critical, and requires a focus on job quality and employment conditions.

The ARC Linkage project is made up of five separate studies. 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.

Last updated on 1 July 2020