The Aged Care Sector in Australia is a difficult industry to navigate – it is faced with numerous challenges and has done so for decades. From government reforms over the last decade, to changes in expectations by consumers and staffing issues; never before has a sector been the subject of such a massive paradigm shift.
This industry currently provides employment for around 350,000 people and cares for a population of over 1.3 million. The growth of the industry is a given – we have an ageing population – but we can’t continue to work the way we always have. Existing working patterns and business models just won’t work into the future – for providers, staff, consumers, or their loved ones. In the near future, the direct contribution of the aged care industry will drastically increase and with it, its ability to improve the economy in line with other mainstream industries – but the challenges will need to be met head on.
The aged care sector is one of the most highly regulated in Australia. There is little dispute over the need for regulations that protect residents. However, some regulations are considered by the aged care sector to be an unnecessary burden. The Commonwealth regulates all aspects of aged care: determining the planning ratio, setting the subsidy, allocating licenses and assessing older Australians for an aged care place. Many of these regulations were introduced as a means of controlling expenditure and managing supply. Numerous commentators and advocacy groups have proposed that this model be abandoned to allow greater consumer choice and more competition in the sector. Under such an approach the Commonwealth’s role would be limited to the assessment for aged care places, ensuring quality and safety of care, and financial protection for consumers. – Rebecca de Boer, Social Policy Section
With regulations put in place over the last decade and the recent Royal Commission, the aged care sector is set to continue to be one of the most regulated industries of all time. And it’s not a bad thing – these regulations centre around subsidies, licensing, assessment for aged care packages, and auditing and regulatory rules to ensure a level of care is provided. The challenge for providers is how to manage all the different levels of packages and the regulations without becoming overburdened.
By 2050 it is estimated that Australia will be home to around 1.8 million people over the age of 85 – they are the Baby Boomers – those born after the end of WWII between 1946 – 1964. Why is this generation a challenge to the aged care sector? Well, they are more organised and segmented than the present generation in aged care. They are the generation that has insisted on individual markets for all the different services they want, and they are not satisfied in settling for anything substandard. They are a little picky too. They have adapted to the use of technology and are prepared to seek out better service. This scenario is adding more pressure on aged care providers as they attempt to improve their service offering within tight budgetary constraints.
The aged care workforce is ageing and there is considerable concern among policy makers and service providers about retaining existing staff and attracting new staff to the sector. Informal carers (mainly family members) also play a significant role in the provision of aged care. However, due to population ageing, demand is expected to outstrip supply in the next 30 years. Irrespective of where or by whom aged care is provided, Australia is facing a serious workforce shortage. Aged care workers are some of the lowest paid in Australia and there is often insufficient support for informal carers. The question of appropriate remuneration of the aged care workforce remains unresolved, despite various campaigns. Flexible models of care could also be explored to ensure that older Australians receive appropriate, high-level care in a variety of settings. This may well involve the examination of the skills and qualifications required by aged care workers and the breaking down of some traditional barriers between medical and community-based care. – Rebecca de Boer, Social Policy Section
A specific challenge which aged care providers will face in relation to staffing is that there will be only 5 workers per retired couple by 2050. The number of customers is increasing while the number of skilled workers in the industry is decreasing. Heavy workloads, stress, limited career growth opportunities, long work hours, dissatisfaction with wages are just a few of the reasons staff are leaving in high numbers. However, should workers be better supported, the turnover rate can be reversed.
Aged Care providers and Government are attempting to manage the situation – reforms and programs which attracts the youth to enter the aged care industry have been implemented and rules and regulations put in place to make the aged care industry a lucrative career option and make it comfortable for the workforce.
The Australian population is ageing along with improved healthcare and better aged care facilities. However, traditional working methods lack the agility and intelligence to provide adequate, expected, necessary levels of care – this is, in part, due to the advancements in technology and the reluctance of some providers to adapt to and implement technology.
Overcoming these challenges facing the Australian Aged Care sector will, in part, come from ensuring that providers, staff, customers and their families are equipped with technological and intelligent solutions which are adaptable, efficient, effective and provide the level of care necessary.
Intelligent self-branded software and apps ensuring customer interactions are centralised, creating exceptional customer service. Continuous customer insights develop into rich customer profiles which further enhance their experience.
- AChallenges of an ageing population | Australian Parliament House [Internet]. aph.gov.au. Available from:
- Challenges and Solutions ‘Home Care Today’ | COTA [Internet]. Cota.org.au. 2017 Available from: