Peak advocacy group National Seniors has unveiled a plan to help solve the aged care crisis in both the medium and long term by encouraging older Australians to work in the sector.
In its submission to the Government for this year's budget, National Seniors is calling for change to the work test on the aged pension to encourage older workers such as those in aged care to stay in the workforce longer.
It has also come up with a plan to recruit older workers who can't find work to be employed in the aged care sector through a traineeship program.
National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke says the innovative policy changes would solve three major problems facing the government at once by:
- Addressing the aged care worker shortage
- Keeping older workers in the workforce and therefore boosting the economy
- Producing better trained aged care workers
"If we change this and encourage - not discourage - the participation of older workers, it will boost the nation's productivity," he said.
"Treasurer Josh Frydenberg needs to act now. You've got a budget coming up, so it's time to use common sense and fix it," said Mr Henschke.
"With an election looming, Anthony Albanese and Jim Chalmers should consider it too."
Mr Henschke has cited a pilot scheme in South Australia which trains older workers and links them to aged care providers to produce quality staff needed in the sector.
The scheme was developed by Mr Mark McBriarty who operates aged care provider 'My Care Solution'.
"More than 85 per cent of our workforce is aged 45 or older.
"They are committed, reliable, eager to learn and most importantly they are compatible with our elderly clients," Mr McBriarty said.
Mr Henschke says the traineeship program, as well as the changes to the work test to the aged pension, would not be a burden on the budget.
"Quite the opposite. It will boost GDP, increase tax revenue, and create a grey army of new workers to build a better future for Australia particularly in aged care," he said.
"And if older aged pensioners work more, they pay more in tax, going from being a financial liability in the government's eyes to a revenue producing asset."
Mr Henschke also pointed to other countries which have a more liberated approach to older people contributing to the labour market.
"In Australia only 2.9 per cent of aged pensioners work compared to 24.8 per cent in New Zealand.
"Why would Australian pensioners want to work right now when they lose half their aged pension and pay tax once they work more than around one day a week?
"We are constantly being emailed by pensioners complaining about how they work extra hours to help out their workplace, only to be penalised with a hit to their pension," he said.
Economics research company, Deloitte Access Economics estimates a five per cent increase in older worker participation would result in a $60bn annual boost to the GDP of the economy.
"The Morrison Government is relying on the military to assist in the aged care worker shortage.
"We have a grey army ready to roll," Mr Henschke said.
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