Building the Caregiving Workforce an Aging World Needs

This article is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders — from around the world and all parts of society — address the COVID-19 crisis, discussing and developing solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.


What are the policies we must implement to build a professionally recognised and appropriately remunerated global workforce of caregivers for the world’s rapidly aging population?

We will learn many lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, but one of the most urgent and obvious is the vulnerability of older populations to serious public health risks. Across OECD countries, nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths happened in care facilities and nursing homes—yet less than 1% of the population lives in those facilities.

COVID-19 demonstrated that the best place for all citizens to stay safe and healthy, especially aging adults, is in the home. And the vast majority of the older population—80% according to AARP—prefer it.

When—or if—they have that option.

The fact is that the world desperately needs millions of additional trained, professional caregivers to care for the world’s rapidly aging population. By 2050, the number of people worldwide aged 65 and over will more than double to 1.5 billion. This miracle of rising longevity means hundreds of millions of people will live longer, healthier, more productive and more fulfilling lives. It also increases the likelihood that hundreds of millions of additional people will need help (in their homes) with everyday tasks—or require more expensive (and, as we’ve seen, less safe) institutional care.

How big is the demand for professional caregivers? In OECD countries alone, 13.5 million new care workers will be needed by 2040 just to keep pace with where we are today.

Fixing this acute shortage of home care workers requires more than simply recruiting more people. It will also demand a dramatic shift in the way society views the caregiving profession and understands the value it delivers—not only for older adults needing care and their families, but also healthcare systems and government budgets worldwide.

To spur progress in reframing the home care profession in the public mind and elevating it as a rewarding career choice, Home Instead and the Global Coalition on Aging have just released a new report: Building the Caregiving Workforce Our Aging World Needs.

The report documents the growing demand for home care and the shortage of supply of caregivers, and offers practical solutions to help transform the caregiving profession into a robust, respected, thriving workforce on the scale needed to serve the world’s aging population. These recommendations aim to serve as a catalyst for change to foster collaboration and action between and among governments, NGOs, private industry and all healthcare stakeholders.

For starters, we must change public perceptions. In recent decades, the nursing and teaching professions have been successfully redefined to account for the contributions they make to individuals, families and communities. It is time for caregivers to be recognised as the skilled, well-trained professionals they are. The OECD’s “Beyond Applause” programme, which aims to draw attention to the essential work of care professionals, is an exciting new initiative that will help ensure care workers are appropriately appreciated and compensated for their work and the value they provide to families, communities and society. Further, understanding that those who excel in caregiving jobs are purpose-driven individuals with a passion to serve others, we can elevate the reputation of, and grow the caregiving field.

Another key component of achieving these objectives is standardising training and education to ensure high-level, consistent quality and accountability. At Home Instead, this is part of our DNA. We have learnt that a caregiver supported by their employer with training and skills development will stay, will grow and will excel. Government, healthcare experts and caregiving companies should work together to establish standards that boost respect for caregivers and confidence in their capabilities. Scaling this model will be the basis for a better and more effective elder caregiver workforce, and deploying these critical skills across the home care sector is essential for building this new 21st-century job opportunity.

We must also raise awareness of the potential of caregiving as a career of the future. Home care not only serves the needs of an aging global population; it also represents a potential job creation engine in maturing economies that need new sources of growth. In Europe and the United States, there has been a massive shift away from manufacturing jobs over the last 50 years. Artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies could put an estimated 57% of jobs at risk across the 37 OECD countries.

Unlike many fields, technology can enhance caregiving but will never replace it. When it comes to providing care, machines cannot provide the compassion, empathy, patience and trustworthiness of trained home care workers. Instead, technology innovations will supplement human skills, create efficiencies and enhance learning opportunities for a growing global workforce of caregivers.

In the report, we also recommend supporting and rewarding caregivers in ways that recognise the demands of their jobs and the value they provide. This includes competitive compensation and benefits to attract and retain long-term talent. It also means providing career paths where caregivers can continually build skills, advance in their careers and fulfill their passion to serve.

Our goal is to build a global workforce of professional caregivers capable of satisfying the desires of older people to age at home. By strongly integrating them into the overall healthcare ecosystem, we can lower costs while creating a dynamic continuum of care across the aging journey for people everywhere. The world’s growing aging population needs—and deserves—nothing less.

Read the full report: “Building the Caregiving Workforce Our Aging World Needs” and find out more about the essential truths that must shape the actions of policymakers to more effectively serve older adults around the world

Read the full report: Building the Caregiving Workforce Our Aging World Needs and find out more about the essential truths that must shape the actions of policymakers to more effectively serve older adults around the world

Source: OECD Forum

Latest Developments

We keep our members and partners in touch with the most recent updates and opinions in the worldwide dialogue on population longevity and related issues.

Building the Caregiving Workforce an Aging World Needs

We will learn many lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, but one of the most urgent and obvious is the vulnerability of older populations to serious public health risks. Across OECD countries, nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths happened in care facilities and nursing homes—yet less than 1% of the population lives in those facilities. COVID-19 demonstrated that the best place for all citizens to stay safe and healthy, especially aging adults, is in the home. And the vast majority of the older population—80% according to AARP—prefer it. When—or if—they have that option.

The 21st-Century Employer Must Be a Steward of Public Health

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, forward-looking business leaders and employers were focused on the global mega-trend of aging as an essential factor in their talent strategy. Now, the pandemic has only underscored the critical importance of aging for every business.

GCOA Report Examines the Role of Inflammation in the Aging Process, as an Indicator of Other Health Challenges, and as a Needed Focus of Integrated Care

29 June 2021 – The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) today released a report, A Proactive Approach to Healthy Aging: The Role of Inflammation Control & Integrated Care, which examines how targeting chronic inflammation and chronic inflammatory diseases (CIDs) can contribute to healthy aging around the world. The report’s findings were highlighted at Women Political Leaders (WPL) Summit 2021 today during a panel titled “WPL Policy Toolkit – Women’s health through their life-course.”

New Report Calls for Employers to Have an Internal Public Health Strategy to Navigate the Aging Post-Pandemic World

25 June 2021 – The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) today released a new report, Employers’ Role in the COVID-19 Environment: Winning in the Vastly Changed World of Work. It highlights the unique convergence between the megatrend of aging and the COVID-19 pandemic in the workplace and offers insights to inform employers’ public health and workforce strategies at this intersection.  Chief among the report’s key findings is the guidance to all employers “to elevate public health as a central feature of their culture and embed it into management.”

New Index Ranking 11 Countries’ Ability to Tackle Rising Threat of Resistance to Antimicrobials Shows Need for Urgent Action

New York, NEW YORK and Washington, DC (June 23, 2021) – Today the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) launched the first-ever global AMR Preparedness Index, a first-of-its-kind evaluation of how the governments of the 11 largest global economies are living up to their commitments to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Global Alliance on Heart Failure & Healthy Aging Unveils New Report Projecting Sharp Rise in Heart Failure Mortality Linked to Population Aging and Missed or Late Diagnosis

New York, NY – June 10, 2021 – Today, the Global Alliance on Heart Failure and Healthy Aging unveiled a new report, Undiagnosed Heart Failure: A Growing Public Health Risk and Looming Financial Iceberg for Aging Societies. The report examines the link between aging and heart failure, recognizing that a significant portion of heart failure deaths occurs in the older population.

Ageism: how age discrimination can be fought in society and the workplace – but older people have to stop believing the stereotypes first

Ageism is something that’s likely to affect everybody as they grow older and it should be treated as seriously as other “isms”, such as racism and sexism. That was the main takeaway from a recent “Solutions to Combat Ageism” webinar, organised in New York by the Global Coalition on Ageing, which aims to educate and drive change to improve older people’s health, productivity and social engagement.