Most of New Zealand's 57,000 aged-care workers are satisfied with their jobs but not with their wages, a new survey has found.
The survey by AUT University is the first independent survey of aged-care workers. It has found that 76 per cent of home-care workers and 69 per cent of caregivers in rest homes and hospitals were satisfied with their jobs.
But the vast majority were unhappy with their wages. When the survey was taken between April and June last year, 73 per cent of the home-care workers and 38 per cent of caregivers in residential care earned less than $15 an hour.
Only 2 per cent of the home-care workers were totally satisfied with their pay and 28 per cent were totally dissatisfied.
Home and Community Health Association chief executive Julie Haggie said the low pay rates were causing staff shortages, especially in Canterbury but increasingly in other regions.
"Everywhere all over the country people are reporting shortages. They just can't find workers," she said.
"It's got worse as the financial crisis has eased slightly. It wasn't so bad in the depths of the recession, but now that it's opening up a little bit more we are starting to find that workers are heading off to other jobs."
She said funding from the health system had failed to keep up with increases in the minimum wage, and employers were struggling to cope by removing pay differentials for personal care work and for qualifications.
Age Concern Auckland chief executive Kevin Lamb said wage rates would have to go up eventually to attract the staff required to support an aging population.
"At some point in time those who provide the funds are going to have to accept that it's going to be necessary to pay a whole lot more across that space, and salaries will have to rise, because demand will outstrip supply of those who are willing to work," he said.
The survey covers a sample of only 574 out of the country's 24,000 home-care workers and 266 of the 33,000 staff in residential aged care. Half of the caregivers in the residential care sample were managers.
Most of the home-care workers work only part-time and are happy with those hours. The biggest number (43 per cent) worked less than 20 hours a week, 26 per cent worked 21 to 30 hours a week and only 31 per cent worked 31 hours or more. A massive 87 per cent said they would prefer to keep their current working arrangements.
In contrast, 70 per cent of the residential caregiver sample worked 31 hours or more.
Ms Haggie said the industry actually needed workers to work longer hours.
"We have all these workers working zero to 20 hours and we have to shift them upwards, because we just haven't got enough workers to cope with the numbers of clients," she said.
"A lot of them like the flexibility. But quite a lot of them say they would like to have more surety of hours."
The survey is online at: www.workresearch.aut.ac.nz/agedcareworkforce