A national approach to the care economy
The Sector > Economics > Report Summaries > A national approach to the Care and Support Economy – coordinated action across our vital sectors

A national approach to the Care and Support Economy – coordinated action across our vital sectors

by Megan O'Connell OAM GAICD - Acting CEO at Early Learning Association Australia

May 30, 2023

Today saw the release of the Draft National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy.


 I’ve been pleased to input to this strategy, both through the Senate Committee into Work and Care and more recently attending the Care and Support Roundtable.


The Strategy is an acknowledgement that the care sector, including aged care, disability, veteran’s care and ECEC are all part of our social infrastructure. Although ECEC hovers between education and care, it is heavily impacted by outcomes and actions in the other care workforces.


Although each workforce is different, each is predominately female dominated and lower paid. Investment in this sector boosts gender equity and economic outcomes, both short term and sustained.


Incentives in one workforce can drive shortages in another, as we’ve seen recently with ECEC workers shifting to more highly paid NDIS roles, so a government focus to plan across the sector is welcomed.


 The draft strategy includes a series of action plans – with the priority workforce initiatives action plan being first up and critical as workforce shortages continue to grow. This action plan will look at what works to attract and keep workers across the sector and share outcomes of initiatives.


Importantly migration pathways for lower paid workers will be part of the solution, as will investment in career pathways.


We know in ECEC that we rely on migrants, especially for our casual labour pool that dried up during COVID.


Harmonising worker screening is also on the table, which would be a blessing for the ECEC workforce where different state requirements and working with children’s check pose difficulties for staff and employers alike.


Wages are noted as a key factor in driving attraction and retention, and we look forward to the government co-funding wage increases in ECEC.


A longer term strategy that is crucial is the market design action plan.


This is about helping to ensure governments support quality providers to grow, and develop solutions for where the market isn’t working.


At present we see new ECEC services flooding areas where there are quality, existing providers. This exacerbates workforce shortages and at times prompts the closure of existing services, whilst other areas of the country remain without provision.


We welcome a more active government role in growing quality provision. Without a more active hand from the government the quality, community not-for-profit sector, which often lacks access to reserves and capital, struggles to grow.


The draft strategy is well worth a look. It signals perhaps a new, more interventionist government position to actively support quality and address market failure, as well as a recognition of the economic value of the care sector.


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