All of us will need care and support at some point in our lives. Whether it’s our youngest Australians, people with disability getting the right support or older Australians being guaranteed dignity and security.
A lot of this vital caring work used to be done in the home, largely by women and usually without pay. In recent decades, our formal care and support economy has grown exponentially, right across early childhood education and care, aged care, disability support and veterans care.
The Budget underlined the scale of this big structural shift in our economy. From 2.5 per cent 50 years ago, now 10 per cent of our workforce are in care occupations. And this workforce is set to double in the next 30 years.
Part of the growth in demand is because Australians are living longer, partly it’s because more women are building careers. But it’s also because Australians are seeking a better standard of care.
No one could hear the horrifying stories of neglect from the aged care Royal Commission and deny we need to do better. That’s why the government committed $3.9 billion in our first Budget to restore dignity to aged care and help make sure older Australians are treated with the respect they deserve.
The growth of the care and support economy is a big opportunity for Australia – a chance to improve the quality of life of millions of Australians and to create hundreds of thousands of essential jobs. But none of this will just happen on its own. We need a plan to get there.
To start with, we need to tackle workforce shortages by making sure workers have decent jobs. The workers in these sectors were the heroes of the pandemic – they deserve our thanks and a pay rise. That’s why the government is funding an $11.3 billion 15 per cent pay rise for 250,000 aged care workers – this will boost the award wage of a registered nurse by more than $10,000 a year.
We’ve also got to make sure taxpayer dollars are being spent well. Unlocking productivity in these sectors will be key to making sure they’re sustainable, growing our economic prosperity, and to keep on providing the care people need.
This is why the government is releasing the draft of our National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy.
We’re inviting the Australian community – the people who need care and support, the people who provide it and the public as a whole – to have their say. Because this is about how we, as a nation, better value care work. How we, as a society, want to ensure that care is accessible, affordable and sustainable for every Australian who needs it.
Building this better care and support economy is a responsibility shared across every level of government. I’m pleased that National Cabinet recently agreed to co-operate to streamline worker screening, improve worker safety, and grow our First Nations care workforce. These changes will start the important task of growing the workforce, improving standards and boosting accessibility.
Our draft National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy sets out the long-term challenges our country faces in sustaining our care workforce, guaranteeing high standards of care for Australians, funding these vital services and fairly paying these essential workers. It also outlines some of the steps Australia needs to take to achieve these goals.
But the reason we’re releasing the draft, rather than simply waiting to publish the finished product is because we believe every Australian should have a say in this.
This is about securing the future of something we will all need. It matters to all of us, so let’s work together to get it right, for all of us.