Thousands of jobs for Pacific workers

There is a demand for 35,000 aged care workers in Australia, and the Pacific is being considered as a key source of labour to fill the gaps.

This has led to the expansion of the Pacific Australian Labour Mobility Scheme (PALM) to include aged care, hospitality and tourism industries in a bid to address workforce shortfalls.

In Western Australia’s south, six Fijian aged care workers have filled some of the vacant, much-needed positions caring for the elderly.

The workers were the first to arrive under the expanded PALM scheme.

Fijian aged care and hospitality workers before departing for Australia. Picture: Fijian Government

Last week, an information session for the aged-care sector in Australia featuring more than 60 employers highlighted the demand for Pacific workers.

Pacific Labour Facility (PLF) Skills Development Manager Brett Thomson met with Fiji’s Ministry of Employment permanent secretary Osea Cawaru to discuss the way forward.

“The number of employers or services that have contacted us since the visit by the Australian Government delegation to Fiji that was led by the Prime Minister has been astronomical,” said Mr Thomson.

“These employers are very keen to get hold of workers and the workshop has generated a lot of interest.”

He added that the first Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) aged-care pilot group is expected to complete their training this week and for mobilisation in the next ten days, whereas the second group of the pilot program will kick start in mid-September.

Australian firm JBS in Fiji looking for workers under the PALM scheme. Picture: Fijian Government

“I must say that the aged-care sector in Australia looks forward to receiving this pilot group as they are looking at what Fiji is doing very well,” he said.

“Fiji is at the forefront of aged-care training at the moment.”

For Australia’s aged care services, the Pacific region has always been a good option. Currently there are more than 1,000 Fijians engaged in Australia’s aged care sector and the same number from other Pacific islands.

Next month, Australia will host a Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra to bring union and business leaders together to address staffing issues, wages and enterprise bargaining.

There is also a likelihood that there will be a pay rise and a set minimum wage to keep the aged care sector lucrative.

The federal government has promised to fund a potential aged care worker pay increase in a submission to the Fair Work Commission.

The independent wages umpire is considering a case brought forward by the unions, calling for a 25 per cent pay increase for 200,000 residential and home care workers.

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said a pay rise was the first step to addressing workforce shortages.

“We need more staff in aged care and a pay rise is the start of ensuring workers are rewarded for the crucial roles they play,” she said.

Exploitation of Pacific workers in Australia continues
Demand for Fiji workers in Australia

“One of the main causes of the gender pay gap is low pay and poor conditions in care sectors like aged care, where the majority of workers are women.

“Increasing wages in aged care is essential to ensuring that men and women are paid equally.”

While this is good news for many Pacific workers, especially women, there are fears that the demand for health care workers and those in the hospitality sector could create a labour drain in the medical fields and in tourism industry.

1 Comment
  1. Tau-Lauey Nao 3 months ago

    I do appreciate your work in the Pacific, please let’s raise our voices on Climate Change and Global Warming..

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