Missing Workers: Retaining Mature Age Women

Missing workers: retaining mature age
women workers to ensure future labour
Chief Investigators: Prof Siobhan Austen, Dr Rachael Ong,
A/Prof Therese Jefferson, & Prof Gill Lewin (Curtin University) &
Prof Rhonda Sharp (UniSA)
Research Associate: Dr Valerie Adams (UniSA)
eS4W Forum on the Care Economy
Sydney, 27 March 2013
• Educating Professionals • Creating and Applying Knowledge • Engaging our Communities
The Missing workers project
• Is funded by an Australian Research Council
Discovery Grant for 2011-2013
• Is a mixed methods project comprised of
quantitative data (surveys) and qualitative data
• Covers staff providing care in both residential
aged care facilities and community care
• Due to Australia’s ageing population, formal
(paid) aged care services are an important part
of the care economy.
Policy context and rationale for the study
• Projected rise in demand of 325% for aged
care workers between 2003 and 2031(Hugo
• Women comprise 90% of aged care workforce
• Median age of workforce is 45+
• Little economic theory/analysis of labour
supply of mature age women.
Research Questions
• What are the key factors influencing older
women’s decisions to maintain or leave
employment in the aged care sector?
• How do mature age women’s paid and unpaid
roles and circumstances interact to determine
their ability/willingness to remain in paid work
in the aged care sector?
• What are the implications for policy on the
retention of mature age women in Australia’s
aged care sector?
Data sources
1. Pilot study, 14 semi-structured interviews
(informed research proposal)
2. HILDA data & staff records (annonymised)
from Silver Chain, a large non-profit aged
care provider in WA
3. Modified NEXT survey – 2 rounds
(Large European Nurses Exit Study)
4. 45 semi structured interviews with a sample
from NEXT survey participants.
Pilot study analysis
• Analysis of the links between the recognition
afforded to care work and how this affects
aged care workers’ motivations for undertaking
aged care work, which found that:
o Many carers perceive that their
contributions are not respected by
members of their own families, friends and
the broader community for a number of
Reasons for negative perceptions
• The ‘dirty’ nature of the work meant that it was
strongly perceived as low status
• A belief that women over 45 and over have few
skills or competencies that are valuable in a
market context
• The critical role of wages in providing a source
of social recognition
• The specific importance of the communicative
aspects of their work is not recognised when
the time allocated to these tasks is too short.
Conclusions and future directions
• The intrinsic motivation for care work may be
affected by ‘plain old disrespect’ or
• There is a pressing need to challenge claims
that care should not pay
• Publicise and encourage ‘best practices’
management, which should include the
allocation of sufficient time to care
• Address the issues of low unionisation and
inadequate public funding that also contribute
to low wages for care workers.
Analysis of aged care provider’s data
• Accessed an aged care provider Silver Chain’s
employment records from 1 January 1997 to 11
October 2007
• A total sample of 7,220 spells of employment
across 7,064 individuals, the majority of whom
(97.8%) recorded only one employment spell
• Identified three occupational groups:
o Carers and home helps
o Nurses
o Administrators.
Initial findings
• Women were 92.9% of new recruits
• This workforce is overwhelmingly made up of mature
age women workers
• 43% were employed on a casual basis at the start
of their employment spell compared to the
Australian workforce as a whole where, in 2007, the
rate of casual employment was 23.6%
• The proportion of casual contracts was highest
among carers and home helps at 52% while only
14% of the administration employees started on a
casual contract.
Survival analysis
• Less then 30% of spells by workers who commenced
in the organisation when they were under 25 lasted for
more than two years
• The equivalent proportion for spells by workers who
were 45+ when they started in the organisation was
• The proportion of those beginning with permanent
contracts remaining after 2 years is approx. 45%
versus 35% for casuals
• Approx. 70% of carer employment spells lasted more
than 6 months, while only 37% lasted longer than 2
Survival analysis
• Employment spells for female employees exceeded
that for male employees by 13%
• The median employment spells for employees who
started when they were aged between 55 and 64
was 42% higher than that of workers who
commenced employment when aged 25-34
• The median duration of carers’ employment spells
was 32% lower than that of administrators and 29%
lower than the median duration of nurses’ spells
• Employees on permanent contracts had a median
spell duration 58% longer than casuals.
Implications for improving retention in the
aged care workforce
• Any workforce strategy for the aged care
sector must be tailored to the needs of women,
who make up the overwhelming majority of the
sector’s workforce
o The family and community roles performed
by women, and the extent to which these
are accommodated in employment
arrangements, are likely to be important to
the sector’s ability to both attract and retain
a workforce in the future.
Implications for improving retention in the
aged care workforce
• The results confirm the importance of matureage women in the aged care sector workforce:
o Many aged care workers join the sector
mid-life, suggesting that the sector may
actually benefit from an ageing workforce
o Mid-life women are more likely to have
elder and disability support roles than roles
relating to the care of their own children
o Parental leave is potentially less important
than carer’s leave in helping ease potential
conflicts between work and family roles.
Implications for improving retention in the
aged care workforce
• The results highlight that older workers have
relatively high retention rates in the sector
o Mid-life women comprise the bulk of the
sector’s workforce, they are the key source
of new recruits, and they offer the sector
the highest chance of employment stability
o Strategies for workforce training and
development should logically be focused on
this group.
Implications for improving retention in the
aged care workforce
• There is a relatively high rate of casual
employment and a strong correlation between
employment type and retention:
o It is reasonable to assume that the lack of
job security and the lack of leave
entitlements inherent in casual contracts
will diminish the attractiveness of the sector
and make staying in the sector a less
appealing and feasible alternative.
Analysis of the HILDA data
Siobhan Austen & Rachael Ong ‘Retention of mid-life
women: Does the workplace matter?’
• Looked at the effects of ill-health and informal
care roles on a sample of 1,535 employed
women aged 45 years and over
• Found that work environments influence the
ability of women experiencing ill-health and
increased formal care roles to remain in paid
• Permanent employment improves the chances
of employment retention by women
experiencing ill-health
Analysis of the HILDA data
• For women on casual contracts worsening
health status reduces the probability of
employment by a relatively large amount –
• However, the reverse is true of increased
informal care roles
o For women with permanent employment
the probability of retention is reduced by
o For women on casual contracts there is
only a small reduction (1.8%) in the
probability of retention.
Modified NEXT surveys
• Included questions on recognition and
questions to align with the ill-health and
informal care roles in the HILDA survey
• 19 Aged Care providers recruited
• 6,867 surveys sent to direct care workers 45+
• Electronic version on ANF website
• 3,945 Surveys completed (2850 Paper,1095
• Stayers and leavers surveys sent 12 months
later – data entry in progress.
• Survey resulted in hugely rich data source
• Early findings include:
- 43.4% of respondents thought of leaving in
past year
- Many reasons for thinking of leaving
• Key relationships identified so far:
- thinking of leaving, pay rate and satisfaction
with pay
- thinking of leaving and self-rated health
• Much more data is available.
• 45 interviews conducted across 5 metropolitan
and 2 regional areas. Early findings include:
o There is some evidence of age
discrimination in the aged care industry
although some employees stay working
after 65 years of age
o An increase in the employment of staff from
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD)
backgrounds about across states and in
both metropolitan and regional areas.

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