The care economy represents one of the largest segments of Victoria’s economy and includes services such as:
- hospital and medical services
- community services
- early childhood education and care
- housing and wellbeing
- allied health support.
Out of all industries, the care economy in Victoria employs the most workers and has the highest proportion of women. Care economy workers account for around 15% of Victoria’s current workforce (Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed(opens in a new window), May 2023) and almost one quarter of new workers expected over the next three years. This projection is not unique to Victoria; Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA) forecast similar growth for the nation (Jobs and Skills Australia (2023), Towards a National Jobs and Skills Roadmap – Annual Jobs and Skills Report(opens in a new window), October).
The care economy is fundamental to Australia’s commitment to universal and equitable health care, including national disability services as well as new expectations of aged and community care and wellbeing services. It is also key for positive health and wellbeing outcomes that generate economic and social returns, as effective services and interventions help people get back into productive work and engage effectively in life.
The ongoing demand for care economy workers is driving new workforce planning and design, including development of a 10-year Victorian Health Workforce Strategy. In addition, the Care and Support Economy Taskforce, established by the Prime Minister, released a draft National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy(opens in a new window) designed to improve outcomes in part through creating fulfilling and secure care and support jobs.
Addressing skills and workforce gaps in the care economy requires adaptable workforces who can undertake a range of functions and responsibilities. This will help to broaden work practices, improve responsiveness and reduce bottlenecks in services – benefits that are particularly relevant in regional areas.
Vocational preparation to support the care economy needs to transform in line with workforce strategies. Qualifications must focus not only on meeting the immediate demands of the role, but also be broad enough to capture future needs and develop a process to define and update competencies to keep up with practices, including digital health responses.
Broader skills and greater capacity for graduates to transition across roles are the key education and training responses to support the redesign of workforces currently underway. Vocational education and training (VET) and higher education share responsibilities for preparing the care economy workforce and there is a need for greater collaboration to streamline education offerings and to build more accessible career pathways.
Barriers need to be removed to further learning and support the care workforce to progress in their careers. People are attracted to caring roles, not necessarily one job type, and many want to take on higher level jobs. Last year’s Victorian Skills Plan highlighted the rationale for a system that better enables progression for learners. Adaptation in education and training in the care economy that aligns with new workforce strategies will continue to be a focus of the skills roadmap.
The Victorian Skills Authority, in conjunction with Holmesglen Institute, is trialling the Skills Lab model directed at lifting the learning outcomes of enrolled nursing students to support the adaptability the care economy requires.