Working conditions in Australia’s aged care sector are in need of reform, according to a new report, which puts forth research-informed policy recommendations.

The study by the Work and Family Policy Roundtable, a multi-disciplinary network of more than 32 experts from 17 universities, called for aged care benchmarks that recognise the importance of decent working conditions and time to care in providing good quality care.

The study also wanted more adequate funding to maintain existing data sets and research capacity to investigate changes at work and in Australian households.

“Up-to-date and comprehensive data is essential for the development of an integrated, research-informed approach to work, care and family policy,” the report noted. “The importance of good data for policy design, implementation and evaluation cannot be overestimated.”

The report also said good research through piloting, continuous evaluation and an ongoing program of policy development would all be critical to cost-effective change that supports all Australian households to work and care well.

“Australians are very clear about their care preferences: family care is highly desired, but so too are high quality formal care services delivered professionally in both centre-based and in-home settings,” Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill said in a statement.

The report also calls for national and state-based occupational health and safety laws to explicitly recognise gender-based violence and the establishment of a federal agency for work, care and community responsible for overarching design and implementation of equitable work, care and family policies.

“Successive Australian governments have pursued gender equality focused on increasing women’s participation in paid work. Gender equality in the paid workforce cannot be achieved unless new and equitable ways of organising care are found.”

Among the other policy proposals submitted by the report’s authors are improved access to replacement care for carers of a person with a disability, chronic illness, or frailty due to old age, the introduction of 12 weeks of paid end-of-life leave for careers, and the inclusion of superannuation in paid parental leave.

“The care workforce, including child care, aged care and disability care, is female-dominated with poor working conditions; many jobs are low-paid, casual and insecure,” study co-author Professor Sara Charlesworth of RMIT University said in a statement.

She explained decent working conditions, including higher wages for the care workforce are “essential” for the delivery of high-quality care for children and elderly as well as those living with a disability.

The report wants the Australian Bureau of Statistics to review its ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification structures to ensure that care services are succinctly and accurately disaggregated and described and that occupational classifications, particularly for frontline care workers, reflect the increasing complexity and skill level of the work that is undertaken.

 

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