One in five aged care workers are ready to walk away from the industry within the next 12 months over poor pay and extreme stress, a new survey has found.
The sector is on the verge of a staffing crisis, a report by aged care service consultants CompliSpace found, with some 47,000 workers likely to leave their jobs in the next year.
The future of the industry after three years is even more dire, with the number indicating a desire to leave more than doubling to 110,000.
In five years, two thirds - or 184,000 - plan to pursue other careers.
Aged care workers in the first year of their career and experienced mentors are the most likely to call it quits, the research indicates.
The survey of more than 1000 aged care workers identified paltry pay, high stress and excessive paperwork as their driving factors behind their desire to leave.
More than 220,000 live in residential aged care homes across the country, and with the proportion of Australians aged over 65 set to grow rapidly over the coming decades, thousands more workers will be needed.
But aged care homes are already woefully understaffed.
The recent Royal Commission into aged care found 20 per cent more direct-care staff are needed to lift staffing to "acceptable" levels, and 1.5 times as many staff to meet "best practice" levels.
In that context, the figures paint a picture of an "aged care staffing dilemma of unprecedented scale", CompliSpace chief executive David Griffiths said.
"This creates an unforeseen public policy crisis for the Australian government, the more than 800 providers of communal aged care facilities, and families who are looking at options for care in the years ahead."
The situation is dire, but not surprising, he said, given some aged care workers are paid as little as $21.62 per hour, or less than $40,000 a year.
"We pay more to those who stack our supermarket shelves than those who care for some of the most vulnerable Australians in society," Mr Griffiths said.
An extra $17 billion over the next five years has been promised to lift standards in the sector, but workers themselves have been left out of the equation, he said.
The Australian Fair Work Commission is currently reviewing an application to increase rates of pay for aged care workers by as much as 25 per cent, and will announce a decision in July 2022.
If granted in full, the minimum wage would increase by $5.41 to $27.03 per hour.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.