Preparing for Australia’s changing demographics in the healthcare sector

The population of Australia is going through a number of tectonic shifts which must be respected by organizations in all sectors. The workforce is growing older, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) outlining that the median age across the country will shift from 37.3 to 44.5 between 2012 and 2061.

Bridging any gaps with millennial candidates when older members of the workforce retire will be the number one labor market shift in Australia by 2020, research from Oxford Economics found.

The aging workforce and demands on the healthcare sector

While a number of sectors will feel the strain of these demographic shifts – those in healthcare will have to address a compounding effect. Managing an aging patient pool with an aging carer pool will be a big challenge.

Australia’s aged care system will come under more pressure as a greater proportion of the population lives longer and enter phases of life that require assistance. The Department of Health explained that the number of people receiving treatment via the system will increase 250 percent by 2050 – accounting for 3.5 million citizens.

Currently, the amount of both doctors and nurses is at a sustainable level as things stand, but there will be a shortfall of 109,000 of the latter and 2,700 of the former in a decade’s time, according to the Australian government’s HealthWorkforce 2025 report.

So how can HR professionals in the sector cope?

The Productivity Commission has already identified that a more skilled workforce will be needed. However, that will remain easier said than done if organizations within the healthcare sector fail to prepare their labor pools accordingly.

HR departments can prepare by assessing where the median age of their workforce currently stands and how it will change over the years to come. Utilizing talent analytics is key here. In healthcare in particular, identifying which roles will be most affected and readjusting accordingly should be a proactive process that starts now.

Act today and avoid issues tomorrow

This backs up the point that the aging issue is a problem today. It’s easy to look at some of the statistics and projections for the workforce in healthcare and be reticent due to the protracted timeline. However, companies in the sector that fail to prepare their HR practices now could see their problems worsen in the future.

A survey from the Society of Human Resource Management explained that a miniscule 4 per cent of organizations have a system in place to retain and manage the number of older employees in their workforces.

To that end, HR managers within companies that specialize in healthcare – or any sector for that matter – should leverage a grasp of succession planning as the workforce morphs, while having a system in place to identify talent gaps as and when aging employees leave their positions for good.

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