More skilled workers from overseas are needed for Australia's caring sector, especially carers for the aged, due to workforce shortages, it is claimed.

The Department of Social Services has told the Productivity Commission, which is currently reviewing the benefits and cost of migration including visa fees, that an aging population and projected shortage of unpaid carers means a change is needed in migration policy.


The Department of Social Services says more overseas care workers are needed to care for Australia's aging population​

It suggests that 'alternative models for determining migration intakes could provide opportunities to increase/complement the existing aged and disability care workforce shortages and augment labour shortages in the healthcare system'.

Under the current migration arrangements, aged care providers can sponsor and employ registered nurses from overseas, but are precluded from sponsoring personal care workers due to requirements around qualifications and minimum salary.

In its submission the department says that Australia's migration programme has been fundamental to the country's social and economic development and has contributed positively to the economic and social wellbeing of all Australians.

'It has contributed both in the short term and in the long term to important societal outcomes at the individual, family and community level. Successive Australian governments have implemented a structured and managed programme which has aimed to maximise the economic and social benefits of the migrant intake for all Australians,' it explains.

It also says that while the focus of the programmes has changed over time in response to changing conditions and needs, such as the increased focus on skilled migration in recent years, the key to Australia's highly successful migration programme has been due to its balanced and planned approach and its focus on attributes including age, skills, English language proficiency, and family connections.

'Australia is a stable society with high levels of social cohesion. This is in part a result of a well-planned migration programme and efforts by successive governments to consolidate and promote the benefits of a diverse multicultural population. Ongoing efforts have been made to address social cohesion, racism and discrimination through targeted programme,' it adds.

Organisations working in the aged care sector backed the submission and said that a government plan in the area is exactly what's needed. John Kelly, chief executive officer of

Aged and Community Services Australia, said that with 1,000 people turning 85 and 2,000 turning 65 each week, the aged services workforce was in need of strategic government planning and policy.

Indeed, government figures showed the sector would need another 25,000 full time equivalent workers in residential care and 17,000 in home care. Kelly pointed out that even with the most creative recruitment programs, the aged care workforce shortfall would not be addressed.

'There is no doubt that migration will have to play a significant part in meeting the needs of the sector,' he said, adding that anything that enables providers to be able to directly tap into not just registered nurses but care workers from overseas would be beneficial.

Patrick Read, chief executive officer of Leading Age Services Australia, said the organisation supports the immediate development of a workforce strategy that includes changes to immigration policy that would improve opportunities for skilled care workers from overseas to join Australia's age services industry.