Australia is taking steps to tackle the dual issue of an ageing population and the current shortage of qualified allied health and aged care workers. We uncover how updates to skilled migration policy will help to provide a solution.
By the year 2031, nearly 20% of Australians are predicted to be over the age of 65. Within two years, the aged care worker shortfall is expected to be at least 20 to 25,000 workers. In ten year’s time, experts say this gap will expand to over 110,000 aged care workers.
The challenge of filling aged care roles is exacerbated by strict requirements which were introduced as a result of the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care. For example, aged care facilities now need to have a Registered Nurse on duty for 24 hours per day. From October 2023, a minimum average 200 direct-care minutes a day is required per resident (including 40 minutes with an RN). While this will deliver the higher levels of care seniors are entitled to, the challenge for many centres will be finding enough nurses and carers to fill vacancies. There is a genuine threat of closure for the facilities unable to fill vacant roles.
To fill the gaps and prevent aged care facilities from being forced to close down, training, incentives and new workers are needed. Fortunately, the Government has implemented initiatives to allow more workers to enter from overseas. Our immigration team has been analysing these changes and uncovering opportunities for the industry to tap into an international talent pool to meet workforce requirements.
Improved migration policies for health and aged care workers
In the past, personal care assistants and aged care workers could not be sponsored on a subclass 482 visa to come from overseas and fill roles. This has now changed.
Firstly, Australian aged care providers can apply to access the new Aged Care Industry Labour Agreement, which streamlines the recruitment of qualified direct care workers from overseas to work in the aged care sector. Employers can use this option where appropriately qualified Australians are not available to fill aged care roles.
Under this initiative, international citizens who are overseas-qualified nursing assistants, personal care assistants and aged care workers, who meet specific skill and work experience criteria and can prove they have what is referred to as ‘Functional English’, can be sponsored to under the subclass 482 temporary work visa with a pathway to permanent residency under the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa. An assessment will apply to validate skills and experience, which is important for quality, health and safety.
To access the new Labour Agreement, aged care providers must enter into an MoU with the relevant industry unions (e.g. the Health Services Union). Once an MoU is established, they can proceed to submit a labour agreement request to the Department of Home Affairs.
When you work with an international talent solutions company to fill a vacant aged care role with a skilled individual from overseas, your consultant will help you understand what the union-related MoU entails and how to ensure this process is completed correctly.
Permanent residence pathways for 482 visa holders
Once an individual has a 482 visa and relocates to Australia, they will become eligible to apply for permanent residency after working for their employer for two years.
As per the Australian Government, the following concessions also apply under the Aged Care Industry Labour Agreement:
- streamlined visa nomination and priority visa application processing
- no post-qualification work experience requirement
- English language concessions for workers with relevant community language skills
- annual salary of at least $51,222 AUD or the Australian Market Salary Rate, where it is higher.
Standard work visa pathways are also available
In addition to new pathways, aged care centres still have the option to access employer-sponsored visa programs to access talent from overseas.
This includes the subclass 482 temporary work visa, which enables employers to address labour shortages by bringing in skilled professionals such as Registered and Enrolled Nurses (providing someone with the appropriate skills from Australia cannot be sourced).
Another program to investigate is the Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme, a temporary migration program to address unskilled, low-skilled and semi-skilled labour shortages across rural and regional Australia by connecting with people from Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste. According to the PALM Scheme information sheet, this has the potential to fill roles including:
- Personal care worker
- Personal care assistant (PCA)
- Assistant in nursing (AIN)
- Kitchen hands, cooks, laundry workers, maintenance and groundskeeping workers
This scheme has the goal of helping individuals to develop skills, earn income and support their families back home.
Take advantage of updated migration policies to fill roles at your aged care facility
The upcoming changes will help the aged care organisations facing the genuine threat of being closed down due to an inability to meet nurse/patient ratios by providing more streamlined pathways to temporary and permanent resident visas for skilled talent.
Thanks to the Aged Care Industry Labour Agreement, employers have an opportunity to attract and retain international talent more easily. The scheme also makes Australia a more attractive destination for internationally trained aged care workers thanks to the reduced entry requirements.
Contact The Migration Agency to discuss how we help bridge the skills gap for aged care facilities.