Aged care, work and family policy action needed
Experts are calling for better working conditions in aged care, disability and child care sectors.
A Work + Family Roundtable pre-election report calls for 12 weeks of paid end-of-life leave for carers and the inclusion of superannuation in paid parental leave among a suite of research-informed policy recommendations around aged care work and family policy.
The report was produced by the Work and Family Policy Roundtable – a multi-disciplinary network of more than 32 experts from 17 universities – and constitutes a call for reform of the national policy settings.
Australia’s public expenditure on long term care is currently at 1 percent of GDP compared to the OECD average of 1.8 percent, highlights Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill from the University of Sydney, the roundtable’s co-convenor.
“The shocking stories emerging from the aged care royal commission stress the urgent need for reform,” Hill said.
“Australia would be in a much better position to deliver a sustainable and high-quality care system if public investment in care infrastructure was increased by an additional 2 percent of GDP expenditure.
“Our research shows current funding models underwrite fragmented and insecure work in frontline care work. We need to shift the dial so that Australia’s care infrastructure can meet the demands of an aging population.”
Co-convener Professor Sara Charlesworth of RMIT University said the care workforce, including child care, aged care and disability care, was female-dominated with poor working conditions; including many low-paid, casual and insecure jobs.
“Decent working conditions, including higher wages for the care workforce are essential for the delivery of high-quality care for our children and elderly as well as those living with a disability.
“The federal government is ultimately responsible for ensuring the sustainability of the care sector and workforce,” Charlesworth said.
Policy recommendations detailed in the report include:
- Aged care benchmarks that recognise the importance of decent working conditions and time to care in providing good quality care
- National and state-based occupational health and safety laws to explicitly recognise gender-based violence
- Establish a Federal Agency for Work, Care and Community responsible for overarching design and implementation of equitable work, care and family policies
- Improving access to replacement care for carers of a person with a disability, chronic illness, or frailty due to old age
- Introducing 12 weeks of paid end-of-life leave for carers
- Including superannuation in paid parental leave.
“Policy settings for a prosperous, healthy and equal Australia must provide households with time to work and time to care for family and community in a way that suits their circumstances,” Hill said.
“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.
“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.”
11 May 2019.