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Love of job 'not enough to sustain aged care workforce'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Love of job not enough to sustain New Zealand’s aged care workforce, says researcher.

The New Zealand Aged Care Workforce Survey 2014 released today offers a valuable snapshot of New Zealand’s aged care workforce and raises important questions about the value we place on the care of the elderly, says its lead author.

Dr Katherine Ravenswood from AUT University’s New Zealand Work Research Institute says low pay, high workloads, an ageing workforce and an increasing demand for aged care add up to a concerning picture for the sector.

"The aged care workforce in New Zealand is often overlooked but that needs to change. Although many of these workers enjoy their jobs, external rewards such as pay rates are increasingly significant factors for retaining them and creating a sustainable workforce."

Dr Ravenswood says the survey reveals an interesting picture of the ‘typical’ aged care worker in New Zealand: "The average aged care worker is female, aged over 45 and is the main earner in her family, but she earns $15 or less per hour. She sees herself as skilled but low paid and while she generally loves the work she does, her morale at work is slipping."

The survey found that New Zealand caregivers experience many of the conditions known to encourage aged care workers to stay in the job:

- Being part of a supportive, communicative team.

- Having a workload that allows them to work in a safe and meaningful way.

- Recognition of skills, experience and qualifications and commensurate pay.

- Training and career opportunities.

- Feeling valued by management, society and their clients.

But it also found widespread experience of conditions known to encourage aged care workers to leave the job:

- Low wages.

- High workload and pressure to get the job done.

- Feeling unsupported and undervalued by management.

- An unsafe work environment including mental and physical stress.

"Overall our impression is that although many caregivers love the job and have good management support, the negative aspects of their work outweighs the positives. This should be a major concern for those planning for the future of New Zealand’s aged care workforce," says Dr Ravenswood.

The New Zealand Aged Care Workforce Survey aims to provide accurate information that can be used by policy makers and planners. The inaugural 2014 survey provides a benchmark and first snapshot which the researchers plan to update every two years. The survey collected responses from almost 900 aged care workers in both home and community settings and in residential facilities.

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