A special permanent visa subclass for aged and disability care workers should be introduced to help combat labour shortages in the sector, the Federal Government’s key advisory body has recommended.Currently, only aged care Registered Nurses feature on the Department of Home Affairs’ Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List.
While 30 percent of aged care workers are migrants, less than one percent are sponsored for employment in the sector.
Instead, 38 percent of migrants in care services are on student visas and come into the sector as “sideways entrants”.
Whats new?The recommendation for the new pathway, contained in a Productivity Commission report aimed at growing Australia’s economy, comes on the back of news Australia will face a shortfall of about 100,000 care workers across the aged, disability and mental healthcare sectors by 2027-28.
This figure is expected to balloon to 212,000 by 2050 as demand doubles within a generation.
The visa, based on a similar one in Canada, should be introduced as a pilot scheme and then evaluated after “several years”, the Productivity Commission suggests.
Approval of eligible applicants should also be subject to the current Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold.
Terms and Conditions“Given that skilled migration is not the primary source of migrants working in lower-paid parts of caring occupations, the scale of any new specialist visa stream may not need to be large.
The Productivity Commission also recommended that the visa contain a condition that the holder remains employed in the relevant sector for four years.
“The sector has struggled to attract and retain enough staff to keep pace with the demand for care and support services as the number of Australians aged over 65 years has continued to grow. The past few years have seen the expansion of home care in particular, as more older Australians choose to live at home for as long as feasible.”
AlternativesInterestingly, the report also noted that the scheme should also be abandoned if the Australian Government develops “sustainable alternative funding options for aged care that are sufficient to meet the wage increases required to limit labour shortages”.
The report stated that there were alternatives, such as a universal competitive mandatory insurance scheme, that could achieve similar outcomes.
“The formula determining the combined private and public funding could be set at a level sufficient to pay the wages to attract workers to aged care from either Australian citizens or, where wages were high enough, from the new skilled visa streams.”
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