Health | Ageing // Workforce | Skills

Australia's aged care crisis escalates - staff shortage doubles

Australia’s aged care crisis is worse than expected with the sector facing a shortfall of around 35,000 direct aged care workers this year alone, according to a new report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).

The report, Duty of care: Aged care sector in crisis, finds the annual staff shortage has doubled in less than a year – escalating from 17,000 to 35,000 due to a combination of challenging pandemic driven circumstances and a lack of action by governments. 

“If workforce shortages at this level continue, we will not have enough workers to meet the basic standards of care recommended by the Royal Commission,” says CEDA Senior Economist Cassandra Winzar. 

“Miniscule levels of migration and increased levels of attrition in the sector, estimated to be around 65,000 workers a year, have exacerbated existing shortages. 

“The aged care workforce was already under significant pressure with staff shortages, low pay, poor working conditions and increased negative attention through the Royal Commission. 

“Over the past year, COVID-19 has amplified these pressures. 

“Aged care has been at the centre of many COVID-19 outbreaks, resulting in even more difficult working conditions and staff themselves becoming sick. 

“For a workforce that was already burnt out prior to COVID-19, this has been the breaking point for many. During a time where unemployment is low, many have chosen to leave the sector.” 

The new Albanese government has made commitments towards increasing the quality of aged care through including 24/7 registered nurses in residential aged care and longer mandated care time. 

“Yet these commitments will be difficult to achieve without a turnaround in the workforce numbers,” says Ms Winzar. 

“Importantly, meeting the goal of an extra 35,000 workers will only get Australian aged care to basic levels of care. 

“Providing care levels at international best practice standard would require a further increase in the workforce.  

“Filling this shortfall will not be achieved without determined and consistent effort which must start now.” 

The report updates the workforce projections of CEDA’s Duty of Care report released in August 2021 with the latest information and industry consultation. Duty of Care made 18 recommendations to help stem the tide of workers leaving and to attract more staff to the sector. 

Duty of Care: Aged care sector in crisis advocates that priority must be given to actions that will boost the workforce in the short term, while continuing to improve long-term outcomes. This includes that:

  • Unions, employers and the Federal Government should collaborate to increase award wages in the sector through the Fair Work Commission’s work value case;
  • Personal-care workers should be recruited directly by adding them to the temporary or permanent skilled-migration lists, or by introducing a new ‘essential skills’ visa; and 
  • Industry and governments should develop low-cost retraining options for those returning to the industry to boost skills and attract workers.

CEDA Senior Economist Cassandra Winzar is available for further comment and interviews.

For more information, please contact: 

Elizabeth Byrne, Media Manager and Content Specialist
Mobile: 0410 627 250 | Email:

Duty of Care: Aged care sector in crisis updates the workforce projections of CEDA’s Duty of Care report, released in August 2021, based on the latest information and industry consultation. 

It finds that filling the growing shortfall in the aged care workforce is a task that is escalating each day. Filling this shortfall will not be achieved without determined and consistent effort. 

Urgent implementation of the recommendations made in CEDA’s Duty of Care report is necessary. 

About CEDA

CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation.

We identify policy issues that matter for Australia’s future. We work to drive policies that deliver better economic, social and environmental outcomes for Australia. We deliver on our purpose by: Leveraging insights from our members to identify and understand the most important issues Australia faces. Facilitating collaboration and idea sharing to invoke imaginative, innovative and progressive policy solutions. Providing a platform to stimulate thinking, raise new ideas and debate critical and challenging issues. Influencing decision makers in government, business and the community by delivering objective information and expert analysis and advocating in support of our positions. CEDA's membership spans every state and territory and includes Australia's leading businesses, community organisations, government departments and academic institutions. The organisation was founded in 1960 by leading economist Sir Douglas Copland, and his legacy of applying economic analysis to practical problems to aid the development of Australia continues as we celebrate 60 years of influence, reform and impact across the nation.;