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Services and Assistance: Community Service Workers
CHANGE IN EMPLOYMENT LEVELS
In line with the continuing trend away from institutional care towards home-based care, employment levels declined in some community service industries between 1996 and 2001, and increased in others.
In 2001, approximately 75,400 people spent census night in a nursing home, comprising mainly patients and residents and a small number of staff. This represented a small increase from 1996. However, the number of people employed in the Nursing homes industry fell from 80,600 to 65,900 over this period. In contrast, the Accommodation for the aged industry experienced a modest rise in employment during these five years (from 16,500 to 18,000), while there was robust growth in the number of people employed in Non-Residential care services nec (from 62,500 to 80,600). This latter increase may have been driven in part by greater numbers of people with a disability stimulating higher demand for this industry's services. Between 1993 and 1998, there was an estimated 20% increase in the number of Australians with a disability.(SEE ENDNOTE 3)
NUMBER OF PEOPLE EMPLOYED IN COMMUNITY SERVICE INDUSTRIES
A reduction in the number of people receiving care in welfare establishments such as night shelters and refuges (see Australian Social Trends 2003, People in institutional settings, pp. 17-21) was accompanied by a lower level of employment in the industry covering these activities (Residential care services nec). In 2001, around 19,000 people were employed in this industry, down from 24,200 in 1996.
LABOUR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS
Community service industries had labour forces with some similar characteristics, which were quite different from Australian workers overall. For example, in each industry in 2001, the proportion of workers who were female was relatively high, as was the proportion who were aged 45 years and over. Furthermore, both male and female workers in community service industries had a greater tendency to work part-time than in many other industries.
AGE DISTRIBUTION OF EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2001
These characteristics were especially pronounced in industries providing residential care primarily for aged persons. In both Nursing homes and Accommodation for the aged, a vast majority of employed persons were female (89% and 86% respectively), possibly reflecting the relatively high proportion of nursing jobs which have traditionally been dominated by female workers. In addition, almost two-thirds of people employed by these industries (64% and 63% respectively) worked fewer than 35 hours in all jobs during the week prior to census night, and over half of all workers in these industries (52% and 56%) were aged 45 years or older. In Non-Residential care services nec, the proportions of females, part-timers, and mature aged workers were not as great, while the industry most concerned with youth welfare and juvenile correction and detention (Residential care services nec) had the youngest age profile, and the highest proportions of full-time workers (55%) and male workers (28%).
There are health workforce planning concerns about a number of occupations such as nurses and medical practitioners that have a relatively old age profile. Age is one factor that can contribute to, or exacerbate, current or expected labour shortages in a particular occupation.(SEE ENDNOTE 2)
The community service industries labour force aged more rapidly than the all industries labour force between 1996 and 2001, with the median age of community service workers rising from 41 years to 44 years over this period, compared with 37 years to 38 years among all employed persons. An ageing workforce can result from departure of younger workers, lack of recruitment, and/or recruitment of older workers. The nature of the work performed may make community service industries more likely than other industries to attract and retain mature age workers. At the same time, prevailing wages and working conditions in community service industries may limit their ability to attract young workers from other industries, or to recruit young people entering the labour force.
In 2001, comparatively high proportions of people working in community service industries were employed in the Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers group, mainly as Carers and aides in occupations such as Aged or Disabled person carer, Nursing assistant, and Personal care assistant. This was especially so in the Accommodation for the aged industry, where 47% of employed people performed a job in this group.
The other industry primarily concerned with residential aged care (Nursing homes) had a smaller proportion of workers in this group (39%) and a relatively high proportion working as Professionals (32%). More than a quarter (28%) of all people employed by the Nursing homes industry were working as Nursing professionals, a considerably higher proportion than among workers in the other three community service industries. This difference reflects the specific skills needed to provide the different type of care delivered by nursing homes.
In 2001, the Non-Residential care services nec industry had a lower proportion of workers employed as Professionals (28%) than the Nursing homes industry. Correspondingly, it had higher proportions working as Associate professionals (12% compared with 7%) and as Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers (41% compared with 39%). While there had been an increase in services providing nursing care in the home between 1996 and 2001, the proportion of this industry's workers who were Professionals declined from 30% in 1996.
Residential care services nec had a somewhat different occupational profile, with a relatively high proportion of workers employed as Associate professionals in occupations such as Disabilities services officer, Residential care officer, and Youth worker (26% compared with 12% or less in the other three community service industries).
In 2001, people working in community service industries were more likely overall to have a non-school qualification than workers across all industries. The proportion of community service workers who held a non-school qualification ranged from 51% in Accommodation for the aged to 60% in the Residential care services nec industry.
In keeping with the primary activities of these community service industries, their workers were much more likely than Australian workers in general to have a non-school qualification in either Nursing, or Human welfare studies and services, as their main field of study for their highest qualification held. The proportion who held such a qualification ranged from 26% in Non-Residential care services nec to 41% in Nursing homes. The higher proportion of workers with these non-school qualifications in Nursing homes reflects the higher level of medical care offered by this industry.
PROPORTION OF EMPLOYED PERSONS WITH A NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATION - 2001
Personal incomes tend to vary widely, largely according to the number of hours worked per week. For this reason, a comparison of the incomes of full-time workers is more meaningful than a comparison of the incomes of all workers. In 2001, people employed in community service industries who worked full-time received less gross weekly income than full-time workers nationwide. Set against a national median gross weekly income of $705 for full-time workers, the median incomes for those in community service industries associated with residential aged care were considerably lower at $543 (Accommodation for the aged) and $549 (Nursing homes), while the incomes of those in the other community service industries were only somewhat lower at $659 (Non-Residential care services nec) and $667 (Residential care services nec). These differences may be attributable to a range of factors such as differences in occupational mix, the number of hours worked, and sources of income other than earnings.
Community service industries have volunteers providing services without being paid (e.g.meals on wheels) as well as paid employees. The Non-Residential care services nec industry is particularly reliant on volunteer labour. During June 2000, there were 211,700 volunteers providing services in this industry, up from 146,400 in June 1996. In addition to this increase, the average time worked by each volunteer rose from 14 hours to 18 hours per month over the period. While the other three community services industries had substantial volunteer workforces, they each had fewer volunteers during June 2000 than paid employees at the end of June 2000, with the ratio being lowest in the Nursing homes industry at 19 volunteers for every 100 paid employees.
The ratio of volunteer workers to paid workers may be linked to the extent to which a community services industry is comprised of non profit organisations. At the end of June 2000, 43% of organisations operating in the Nursing homes industry were 'not for profit' organisations. The proportion was higher among organisations operating in the Accommodation for the aged industry (76%) and the Residential care services nec industry (85%), and highest of all in the Non-Residential care services nec industry (98%).(SEE ENDNOTE 4)
1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2003, Australia's welfare 2003, Cat. No. AUS 41, AIHW, Canberra.
2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2003, Health and community services labour force, 2001, AIHW Cat. No. HWL 27, AIHW, Canberra.
3 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1999, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 1998, cat. no. 4430.0, ABS, Canberra.
4 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2001, Community Services, Australia, 1999-2000, cat. no. 8696.0, ABS, Canberra.