A combination of low, stagnant wages and lack of affordable housing is making life hard for aged care workers across the country.
Kate Colvin, spokesperson for a fairer housing system campaign Everybody’s Home, tells Aged Care News that lack of affordable housing supply is at the heart of the problem.
She says that social housing now only makes up 4.2 per cent of all housing stock.
“As that reduction has happened, states have tightened eligibility,” Colvin says.
For example, Sydney, despite having some of the highest property prices across the country, has some of the tightest social housing affordability criteria: a single must have an income just short of $35,000 per annum ($655/week), whilst in Victoria the limit is just over $50,000.
“The consequence of that is that someone might be at risk of homelessness because their income is not enough to keep up with rents in the private market, but they might not get access to social housing until they’ve actually become homeless,” Colvin says.
Astoundingly, Colvin notes that waiting times can be extensive even once a person has entered a status of homelessness.
“…they would be considered a higher priority to get into social housing [but] might need to wait up to a year.”
It’s an unexpected risk facing those that are considered ‘essential workers’ in the community.
But Colvin notes that such workers value to the general community is not reflected in their pay.
“These are all essential tasks in our community, but are not well paid, and in communities where rents are high, it means that [these health care workers] can’t live nearby,” she says.
“So that means either that community has a shortage of essential workers who are doing aged care or other kinds of [health care] work, or aged care workers end up having to do really long commutes to work.”
ABC News found in April that Apollo Bay had fallen victim to the former, with a vacancy rate of zero causing GPs to abandon their practices in the area.
The other alternative, long commutes to work, contributes to issues of fatigue and poor work-life balance.
“We’re talking about majority female workforce who are very likely to have responsibilities to manage children’s schedules and feeding them,” Colvin says.
“Then when you add an hour commute in at the beginning and end of a shift, it just makes managing life really difficult.”
Corelogic data, released last week, shows annual rents this year have grown their fastest since 2008, climbing 1.9 per cent in the September quarter to post annual growth of 8.9 per cent.
The sharpest increases were in regional areas, which jumped by 12.5 per cent overall.
In metropolitan areas, Perth was up 14.5 per cent, Hobart by 12.8 per cent and Darwin by 20.9 per cent.
Brisbane increased 9.7 per cent, Adelaide 8.3 per cent and Canberra 9.6 per cent.
Sydney and Melbourne were in lockdown for part of the period in question, but still increased by 7.2 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively.