A new report – titled ‘The Big Care Shift,’ released by the Human Services Skills Organisation (HSSO) and The Demographics Group, reveals that Health Care and Social Assistance jobs have grown faster than any other workforce in the country – at a rate of 24,000 net extra workers per year, dominating and surpassing sectors like retail.

According to the report (which uses the latest release of census data), the fastest growing job on the Australian continent in 2021 is the job of Aged or Disabled Carer which jumped 95,212 net extra jobs to 227,535 jobs – a huge shift.

Healthcare and Social Assistance sectors have been the greatest contributor to labour growth in Australia since the 1990s and is the largest employing sector at 15 per cent of the workforce. This growth is forecast to continue to grow faster than any other sector over the coming years due to increasing demand in aged care, disability support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), allied health and community services.

The big care shift is also driving growth in jobs like Child Carer which increased by 27,478 net extra positions over the five years to 2021.

The report raises questions about the scale and expansion of this workforce. If the sector is growing at this rate based on demand for services, are we doing enough to support the sector? The consensus is no.

HSSO Chief Executive Officer Jodi Schmidt said attracting and retaining quality workers to meet increasing demand is the number one challenge facing the care and support sectors in Australia.

“Confronting this challenge requires a coordinated and collaborative effort. Employers, unions, governments, workers, and training organisations need to work collectively to focus our effort, so we have the greatest impact for the people who rely every day on the services delivered by the care and support sector.

“There is no silver bullet, we need to invest – time, effort, and resources to raise awareness of the scale of this challenge, ensure that this work is appropriately valued, and improve the experience and career opportunities for workers to build a high quality and sustainable care and support sector,” said Ms Schmidt.

The Demographics Group Director, columnist, speaker, business advisor and media commentator, Bernard Salt AM said:

“The greatest workforce insight revealed by the 2021 Census is the aged or disabled carer ‘tsunami’. Approximately 95,000 net new workers were added to this workforce over five years from 2016 to 2021. It is quite possible that aged or disabled carers will replace sales assistant as the largest job category in Australia by 2026.

“The great Australian care shift has profound implications for training, funding, accreditation and management going forward. Aged and disabled care sits at the heart of Australia’s care transformation. And looking at the ageing of the baby boomer population we Australians really do need to get our management systems, funding and training in order to service the burgeoning care market.”

The data shows that over the last decade the number of Australians aged 80+ has increased by around 30,000 per year. By 2030 this number will exceed 60,000 per year as baby boomers (born 1946-1964) push into the prime “aged care” stage of the lifecycle.

“This report highlights that if we continue to operate as we are, we are simply running out of time to implement effective solutions that have the scale and impact to ensure we are prepared for the sector’s boom,” Ms Schmidt concluded.

To access a copy of the report, visit hsso.org.au