Aged Care Workforce Census – A Summary for Residential Aged Care Providers


How many people work in residential aged care? Who are these workers and what are their roles? See the latest statistics in this summary of the Department of Health’s 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census Report.

About the Census Report

The Department of Health surveys the aged care workforce every four years and publishes the information in a census report. The previous census report was published in 2016. The latest report is the 2020 Aged Care Workforce Census Report which was published on 2 September 2021. The data in this report relates to the period November 2019 to November 2020. Most of the data is limited to direct-care workers and does not cover other workers.

Size of the workforce

  • 277, 671 staff working in residential aged care, including:
    • 208,903 direct care staff
    • 52,801 ancillary roles such as cleaners, cooks, and laundry assistants
    • 14,021 management and administrative roles
    • 1,946 pastoral care and educational roles.


Employment types

  • 77% of direct care staff are employed in a permanent position
  • 19% of direct care staff are employed in casual or contract positions
  • 4% of direct care staff are employed as agency staff or sub-contractors.

Most direct care permanent staff work part time (93 per cent). Some workers may have several part-time positions which when combined are equivalent to or greater than one full-time position.


Nurses working overnight

80% of facilities reported that they had an RN rostered on duty overnight every day in the last fortnight.


Age and gender distribution

  • 10% of direct care workers are 60+ years old
  • 18% are 50-59
  • 19% are 40-49
  • 28% are 30-39
  • 23% are 20-29
  • 1% are under 20

The direct care workforce is getting younger. Around half of workers are aged under 40 years, an increase from around one-third in 2016. Of the various roles, RNs are the youngest, with around 60% of these workers under 40.

86% of direct care workers are female.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Distribution

1.9% of direct care workers identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, a slight increase from 1% in 2016.


Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) distribution

35% of direct care workers identify as being from a CALD background. This is an increase from 26% in 2016.


Qualification levels

66% of Personal Care Workers (PCWs) hold a Certificate III or higher in a relevant direct care field, and another 2% were studying for a Certificate III or higher.

Managers of facilities are much more likely to come from a nursing background than a business background, with a bachelor’s degree in nursing or postgraduate nursing qualifications more common than business management or administration.



Type of training Percentage of facilities who offered this training between Nov 2019 and Nov 2020
Infection prevention control (IPC) 90%
Dementia care 82%
Medications 82%
Elder Abuse 88%
Wound care 71%
Palliative care 64%
Falls risk 64%
Diversity awareness 62%

5% of facilities offered no training to direct care workers in the period Nov 2019 to Nov 2020.


Direct care position vacancies

  • 9,404 vacancies in direct care roles. Most are PCW vacancies.
  • Almost half of facilities reported at least one PCW position vacant. Average number of positions vacant across these facilities was five.
  • 29% of all direct care workers left their employment in the 12 months between November 2019 to November 2020. These workers may have taken up employment at another aged care facility as opposed to leaving the workforce altogether.
  • Turnover was highest among NPs and RNs, with 37% having left their employment over the 12-month period.


Impact of COVID-19 on staffing levels

  • 9% of facilities reported a decrease in their total direct care workforce (including volunteers) due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 44% reported an increase
  • 47% reported no change.


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About the Author

Mark Bryan

Mark is a Legal Content Consultant at CompliSpace and the editor for Aged Care Essentials (ACE). Mark has worked as a Legal Policy Officer for the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and the NSW Department of Justice. He also spent three years as lead editor for the private sessions narratives team at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in Arts/Law from the Australian National University with First Class Honours in Law, a Graduate Diploma in Writing from UTS and a Graduate Certificate in Film Directing from the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

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