Migration boost welcome, say sector peaks

Peak bodies have welcomed the announcement of a migration intake increase.

Peak bodies have welcomed the announcement of a migration intake increase to help bolster staff numbers in priority sectors, including aged care.

An outcome of last week’s Jobs and Skills Summit held at Parliament House in Canberra and attended by politicians, providers, researchers and unions, the initiative also incudes a speeding up of the visa process and a relaxing of work restrictions placed on international students and pensioners.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neill announced on Friday that Australia’s annual migrant intake would be raised from 160,000 to 195,000. An injection of $36 million has also been earmarked to clear the visa backlog.

Paul Sadler

Aged & Community Care Providers Association interim CEO Paul Sadler said, while the policies were appreciated, more urgent action is needed to alleviate aged care staff shortages.

“ACCPA members are working hard to make sure they can meet the government’s required additional minutes of care for people living in aged care homes but the dire shortage of staff, particularly registered nurses, makes it especially challenging,” Mr Sadler said.  

“We need to recruit more staff as quickly as possible as the number of people leaving aged care is increasing the pressure on those staff who remain,” he added.

Catholic Health Australia also welcomed the news of an increase in migrant numbers, which it hopes will flow through to the health and aged care sectors battling acute staff shortages.

CHA CEO Pat Garcia said: “This is a very welcome announcement to come out of the jobs summit. With a shortfall of tens of thousands of workers across hospitals and aged care facilities the increased migrant intake to Australia will help.”

The boost in migrant numbers was at the top of the list on CHA’s five-point plan announced ahead of the summit.

Source: Catholic Health Australia

Describing it as “a wonderful investment in the future of Australia,” Mr Garcia added: “Now the sector needs to work with Government to make a career in aged care and nursing as attractive as possible to those people, so they can come to Australia safe in the knowledge they will be paid a fair wage for the important work they do.”

Mobilising the grey army

Responding to the announcement of a one-off income credit so that pensioners can earn an extra $4,000 a year, National Seniors Australia said it was an important first step in fixing the jobs and skills shortages in the workforce.

The adjustment means pensioners will be able to go from earning $300 per fortnight under the current scheme to earning up to around $450 per fortnight.

While welcoming the move, Australia’s peak organisation for older Australians believes more should be done to simplify the overly complex pension system.

Ian Henschke

National Seniors chief advocate Ian Henschke said one of the biggest determents for aged pensioners and veterans to get back into the workforce is the reporting of any income earned by aged pensioners to Centrelink, and the fear of losing their pension if they get it wrong.

“This new income credit still puts the onus on aged pensioners to report their income to Centrelink which is a major disincentive for pensioners to return to work,” Mr Henschke said. “It’s akin to them being audited every fortnight.”

However, Mr Henschke said National Seniors Australia “was grateful that pensioners can earn more, and hope pensioners will respond to this move.”

As well as the so-called grey army, the government also hopes to mobilise international students into professions impacted by skill shortages – such as nursing – by allowing recent graduates extra years of stay in Australia.

The suite of job-boosting initiatives follows an earlier announcement of a Federal Government agreement with the states and territories to pour $1.1 billion into skills and training and fund a further 180,000 fee-free TAFE positions across the country.

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Tags: AACPA, catholic health australia, featured, ian henschke, migration, national seniors australia, Pat Garcia, Paul Sadler,

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