You would be forgiven to expect that after all the damning investigative reports, Royal Commissions, industrial action and public health calamities of near biblical proportions, the sheer scope of the staffing crises in the aged, community and healthcare sectors in Australia is a matter of incontrovertible fact.
There are relatively few industries and professions that have been spared the challenges of chronic skill shortages, but the ‘care economy’ is one of the most significant areas to be affected, not least of all because it is a buttress to our very ability to function as a society.
Taking Aged Care as an example, CEDA has reported a shortfall of 35,000 workers and the real and present danger of Australia not being able to to meet basic standards of care. These are sentiments strongly echoed by the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council amidst projections of 65,000 workers leaving the sector in the next 12 months alone.
There have been many admirable calls for the establishment of an Aged Care Industry Labour Agreement to attract needed skills from overseas where the current patchwork of Australian immigration pathways are non-existent, inefficient, or otherwise fall short. This would be a welcome addition to the 10 Industry Labour Agreements currently in place (including the most recent Refugee pilot initiative of Talent Beyond Boundaries). However, the process of establishing a formal Industry template may not meet emergent needs for quite some time to come.
In March 2019 I reported widely of policy measures announced by then Immigration Minister Coleman promising to give aged care providers streamlined access to Company Specific Labour Agreements (CSLA) in order to sponsor skilled carers from overseas. This already sets up a policy framework for a ‘hybrid’ industry template which includes the following concessions:
a permanent residence pathway to an ENS visa, conditional on nominees having been employed for at least three years on a Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa,
an age concession allowing ENS visa nominees to be up to 55 years old, and/or
a lower English language proficiency requirement equivalent to the short-term stream of the TSS visa with International English Language Testing System (IELTS) component scores of at least 4.5 and an overall IELTS score of at least 5.0.
I call on Minister Giles to consider expanding these parameters to give meaningful effect to the Aged Care CLSA arrangements already in place:
1. Automatic credentialization of organisations operating in Subdivision 86 of the ANZSIC (Residential Care Services) who have been operating for 3 years or more and with no ‘Adverse Information’ of concern
2. ‘Light touch’ on Labour Market Testing evidence and subsequent LMT exemption based on the already axiomatic skill shortages in the sector
3. Automatic inclusion (with or without a PR pathway) of the following off-list occupations:
Aged or disability carers –ANZSCO 423111
Nursing support workers – ANZSCO 423312
Personal care assistant –ANZSCO 423313
4. Priority processing of CLSA and associated TSS nomination / 482 visa applications for organisations in this sector.
In the absence of new skilled occupation lists, a common-sense approach leveraging existing immigration policy frameworks, (in addition to training a local pipeline of workers), is required to stem the tide of attrition and effectively resource this critical sector.
In the meantime, contact the writer for more information on overseas workforce solutions in the Aged, Community, and Health Care space.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice beforetaking any course of action.*
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