News National Questions raised over survey’s dire predictions of aged-care employment

Questions raised over survey’s dire predictions of aged-care employment

Incidents involving two elderly residents were "the tip of the iceberg", a royal commission has heard. Photo: Getty
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Academics have questioned a recent survey suggesting the aged care industry faces a staffing crisis.

A YouGov Galaxy survey, published last week, asked students from university, tertiary college and TAFE if they’d contemplate working in aged care upon finishing their studies.

Of the 500 respondents, 62 per cent (or 310) said that would be unlikely.

The New Daily understands the survey, commissioned by aged-care provider Whiddon, did not take into account the courses that students were already enrolled in.

It’s unsurprising students wouldn’t think to pursue a career in aged care if what they’re studying has no relevance to the industry, said Professor Irene Blackberry, director of La Trobe University’s John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research.

“If people are currently doing engineering or film or even business, why do they need to care about aged care? Of course they would say no,” Professor Blackberry told The New Daily.

“That means the survey itself is not very meaningful.”

Experts say this survey question should be directed towards students in nursing, medicine and allied health professions. Photo: YouGov Galaxy survey

When asked about the students’ fields of study, Whiddon CEO Chris Mamarelis pointed to the method section of the survey report that explained the “data was weighted by age, gender and region to reflect the latest ABS population estimates”.

The questionnaire did not ask respondents – all from Australia and aged between 18 and 23 – to disclose what they were studying and YouGov says its surveys are always completed anonymously.

Professor Blackberry said unless those surveyed can potentially work in the aged care industry, the results are “totally skewed” because the “questions are not quite matched to the population”.

“Imagine a film student saying ‘I’m so inspired to work in aged care’ … But most people will say ‘why on earth if I’m doing engineering’ for example, ‘would you expect me to be a personal care worker at an aged care facility’,” she explained.

Based on the survey’s findings, Whiddon concluded “the majority of the emerging workforce would be unlikely to consider a career in the [aged care] industry”.

But Professor Joseph Ibrahim, head of Monash University’s Health Law and Ageing Research Unit, said it is too early to draw such a conclusion.

This is a hypothesis-generating study, meaning it doesn’t prove anything. All it does is highlight questions to ask and areas to examine,’’ he said.

Almost half of the 310 respondents who were not interested in a career in aged care said it was because they didn’t have experience around the elderly, with more than a third reporting they didn’t know enough about the industry and the careers available.

“You at least want to know what discipline of training, or what their undergraduate qualification is going to be,” Professor Ibrahim said.

“If you surveyed medical or nursing students and they came back with these results, it would be quite frightening.

“But if you surveyed engineers and architects, then maybe this is what you’d expect.”

Aged Care Industry Association CEO Luke Westenberg said the survey echoed the findings of other studies, such as HESTA’s Transforming Aged Care study and the government’s Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce report.

“Overall, the evidence available does suggest that younger people may not be aware of the diversity of roles in the contemporary aged care industry, nor of the reality of working in aged care,” Mr Westenberg said.

“This has been identified as an issue by a number of studies.”

Mr Westernberg said all projections suggest very significant growth in aged care employment over the next decades.