There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this.
Australians have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. But with a rising life expectancy comes an older population; in 2017, 3.8 million Australians were in the 65 and over age range (15 per cent), a rise partly fuelled by the first of the baby boomers turning 65 in 2011. By 2050, 1.8 million will be over the age of 85.
Of course, our elders are widely respected in our society, but in order to maintain the necessary healthcare and workforce in Australia, the impacts of an aging population must be considered. Stairlift manufacturers, Acorn Stairlifts investigates this further.
When you’ve worked your whole life, retirement is certainly an earned reward. But as people head off to pick up their Age Pension, the rate of labour force participation naturally lowers. This has been further aggravated by a decline in fertility rates — the number of old people is on the rise, but the number of children per woman has fallen from 3.5 to 1.8.
So, we have people exiting the workforce, and we have fewer young people entering working life. This reduction in labour force participation means economic growth is slowing down due to a simple lack of resources on the production line. Lower national income means lower tax collections, meaning less money circulating within the country as a whole.
Naturally, health care is going to be a high priority as the population ages further. According to a report by the Parliamentary Budget Office, demand for health services rise upon a person reaching their 70s, then upon reaching age 80, the need for aged care services picks up. But the expectation for this service is also shifting from hospital care to at-home services. People would much rather be treated and looked after within their own home than spend lengthy periods of time in hospital.
This is good news in terms of primary care costs, but it does mean that our healthcare system needs a re-evaluation in the coming years to ensure at-home care is running smoothly and efficiently. Options such a day procedures and community healthcare are being put forward for this reason in other countries already.
Building for the future
On of the key things we need to ensure is that our health care workforce is ready for the next few decades of an increasingly older-dominated population. In particular, the need for aged care is only going to increase in demand, with demand higher than supply within 30 years; a potential market for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to build a solid company in the aged care sector. To make the job role more appealing to the younger generation heading into the working world, it would certainly be advantageous to address the low pay currently linked to aged care workers. There have already been a number of campaigns to highlight this issue, and the country is running out of time to start building up its care workers to be ready for the older population.
As the work force reduces as a whole, it is going to be ever more difficult for Australia to fill its need for aged care staff. Certainly, work needs to be done to improve the image and make the idea the becoming an aged care worker more appealing to the incoming workforce.
Parliamentary Budget Office, Australia’s Ageing Population — Understanding the Fiscal Impacts over the Next Decade, 2019.