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Complementary Health

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Complementary Health sector.

Complementary Health covers a number of sectors involved in providing treatments, practices, products and services across the following disciplines:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Ayurveda
  • Kinesiology
  • Massage and Remedial Massage Therapy
  • Reflexology
  • Shiatsu
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Remedial Massage.

Mainly small businesses operate within the Complementary Health service areas. The location of these small businesses is driven by population distribution, with more than 80% located across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The job roles are various.

The Complementary Health Industry Reference Committee (IRC) has responsibility for nine qualifications, packaged within the  HLT – Health Training Package. A project to update the existing Training Package Products within the HLT – Health Training Package relating to Massage, Remedial Massage Therapy and Reflexology job roles is nearing completion.

For information on other health-related training and employment, visit the Health industry page and the various sectors.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Since 2002, while employment levels have fluctuated year on year, overall employment levels have increased for all complementary health occupations. The Massage Therapist workforce has grown substantially during this time, while employment levels for Nutrition Professionals and Complementary Health Therapists both peaked in 2022. Projections indicate employment levels will decrease between 2022 and 2026 in Nutrition Professionals, Complementary Health Therapists and Massage Therapists and will increase in Personal Care Consultants.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Complementary Health-related qualifications peaked in 2017 at almost 13,410 and then decreased to 7,950 in 2019. In 2021, enrolments increased to more than 8,650.  Program completions peaked in 2018 at approximately 4,570 before declining to less than 2,710 in 2021.

Approximately 82% of program enrolments were at the diploma or higher level in 2021, with the remaining 18% at the certificate IV level.

Three-quarters of program enrolments were in Remedial Massage qualifications (75%), followed by Massage Therapy qualifications (18%). The main intended occupation was Massage Therapist, followed by Natural Remedy Consultant.

More than three-quarters of Complementary Health-related training was delivered by private training providers (79%) in 2021, followed by TAFE institutes (18%). Approximately two-thirds of subjects were funded by domestic fee for service arrangements (67%), followed by government funding (23%).

New South Wales had the highest proportion of students enrolled in Complementary Health-related programs (25%) in 2021, followed by Victoria (23%) and Queensland (20%). More than three-quarters the training was delivered in New South Wales (26%), Victoria (26%) and Queensland (25%) in 2021.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region please visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, please sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

 

Industry insights on skills needs

The Complementary Health IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast was the most recently published industry skills forecast by the IRC, as of September 2022. It identified the top priority skills for the sector as teamwork and communication, emotional intelligence, problem solving, self-management and critical thinking.

The top five identified generic skills are:

  • Customer Service / Marketing
  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self-management (adaptability)
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (Foundation skills).

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers in the sector were communication skills and research. The most advertised occupations were Dietitian, followed by Remedial Massage Therapist. The top employers were the Government of Victoria and the New South Wales Government.

According to the Complementary Health IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast, over recent times treatment practices for Massage Therapists, as well as the wider Complementary Health professional workforce, have evolved significantly. Such change has resulted in evolving skill and competence requirements for the workforce.

The sector overall has been experiencing several challenges which are impacting workforce skill requirements including:

  • Government policy/legislation affecting private health insurance rebates
  • Ageing workforce and an ageing population
  • Skills shortages
  • Employment status and earnings.

Government policy/legislation

From April 2019, private health insurance providers no longer receive government subsidies for providing rebates across 12–16 natural therapies following the 2015 Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Private Health Insurance for Natural Therapies. Most of the therapies under the remit of the Complementary Health IRC were affected, including Ayurveda, Aromatherapy, Kinesiology, Shiatsu, Reflexology and TCM Remedial Massage. Remedial Massage Therapy was excluded from the change and continues to attract rebates.

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care announced the Natural Therapies Review 2019-20 in April 2019. The Review is assessing the clinical effectiveness of the 16 natural therapies excluded from private health insurance rebates from 1 April 2019 by looking at additional evidence. The National Health Medical Research Committee has established the Natural Therapies Working Committee to oversee the evidence by the end of December 2021, with a possibility of an extension. The Committee is expected to advisethe Government if private health insurance should cover any of the therapies.

Ageing workforce

The Complementary Health IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast reports the ageing trend of its workforce presents the challenge of adopting workplace arrangements that will retain a substantial level of mature-age workers. In some cases, over half (54%) of the workforce in some Complementary Health roles (e.g. Complementary Health Therapists) are aged 45 years and over (registering an average age of 47 years, compared to the all-job average of 40 years).

Proactively implementing measures, such as flexible working conditions to retain older, skilled workers, and other initiatives, such as succession planning for businesses and accessing a sufficiently skilled pool of graduates or new entrants is critical within a sector, which consists predominantly of small businesses.

Providing channels in the VET sector to gain higher-level and/or further skills (for example, via an Advanced Diploma and/or skill sets to extend the scope of practice) may provide older workers with further learning opportunities and younger workers with career pathways.

Skills shortages

Within the Complementary Health sector, skills shortages are seen to be contributing to insufficiently trained practitioners. The skills shortage partially stems from historically inconsistent training provided by educational institutions, resulting in varied levels of skills and abilities. In addition to the inadequate quality of training, there is also a scarce quantity of experienced teaching staff, with Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) at times resorting to recruiting newly graduated students for teaching positions. Additionally, Complementary Health Practitioners who have gained their qualification/s through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) do not meet the educational criteria necessary to be recognised by certain health fund providers.

Due to these challenges, certain job roles in the Complementary Health sector, such as Complementary Health Therapist and Massage Therapist job roles, were listed under the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa's Short-Term Skills Occupation List – a list which specifies occupations for 482 visa and migration application. Addressing these skills gaps is necessary, principally due to the increasing level of demand from an ageing population, who supplement Complementary Health services as part of palliative care.

However, the Massage & Myotherapy submission (No.142) to the Inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program sought a change to the policy to ensure only appropriately skilled and trained therapists pass the skilled migration program, or removal of massage therapists from the skilled migration list.

Employment status and earnings

Research has found that most Complementary Health practitioners work part-time and some Complementary Health therapists doing body work can only do around 25 one-hour massages in a week and many do fewer. A workforce survey of 480 message therapists in 2017 revealed the majority are either self-employed sole traders (64%) or sub-contracting their services to other businesses (24%). Further, non-genuine contracting practices are common within the industry, which is reflected by the relatively small percentage of therapists who are employed under the Health Professionals and Support Services Award. A recent survey by the Shiatsu Therapy Association Australia (STAA) found the majority (75%) of Shiatsu Practitioners work part-time. Part-time employment has a flow-on effect on the level of potential earnings for workers.

COVID-19 impact

The following consider the impact of COVID-19 on the Complementary Health sector. For further information please refer to government departments and industry bodies listed below under Links and resources.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

National Skills Commission 2022, Occupation Employment Projections viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nationalskillscommission.gov.au/topics/employment-projections

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2026
    • 2522 Complementary Health Therapists
    • 2511 Nutrition Professionals
    • 4116 Massage Therapists
    • 4515 Personal Care Consultants.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2022, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2022

  • Employed total by ANZSCO 4 digit ‘2522 Complementary Health Therapists’, ‘2511 Nutrition Professionals’, ‘4116 Massage Therapists’ and ‘4515 Personal Care Consultants’, 2002 to 2022, May Quarter.

 

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • HLT – Health Training Package
  • Aromatherapy and Aromatic Medicine
    • HLT42707 - Certificate IV in Aromatherapy
    • HLT42712 - Certificate IV in Aromatherapy
    • HLT51407 - Diploma of Aromatherapy
    • HLT52315 - Diploma of Clinical Aromatherapy
    • HLT60907 - Advanced Diploma of Aromatic Medicine
  • Ayurveda
    • HLT41207 - Certificate IV in Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultation
    • HLT41212 - Certificate IV in Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultation
    • HLT52615 - Diploma of Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultation
    • HLT60707 - Advanced Diploma of Ayurveda
    • HLT60712 - Advanced Diploma of Ayurveda
    • HLT62615 - Advanced Diploma of Ayurveda
  • Kinesiology
    • HLT42807 - Certificate IV in Kinesiology
    • HLT42812 - Certificate IV in Kinesiology
    • HLT51507 - Diploma of Kinesiology
    • HLT52415 - Diploma of Kinesiology
  • Massage Therapy
    • HLT40307 - Certificate IV in Massage Therapy Practice
    • HLT40312 - Certificate IV in Massage Therapy Practice
    • HLT42015 - Certificate IV in Massage Therapy
  • Naturopathy, Homoeopathy and Western Herbal Medicine
    • HLT60102 - Advanced Diploma of Western Herbal Medicine
    • HLT60107 - Advanced Diploma of Western Herbal Medicine
    • HLT60112 - Advanced Diploma of Western Herbal Medicine
    • HLT60507 - Advanced Diploma of Naturopathy
    • HLT60512 - Advanced Diploma of Naturopathy
    • HLT60612 - Advanced Diploma of Homoeopathy
  • Nutritional Medicine
    • HLT61007 - Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine
    • HLT61012 - Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine
  • Reflexology
    • HLT51707 - Diploma of Reflexology
    • HLT51712 - Diploma of Reflexology
    • HLT52515 - Diploma of Reflexology
  • Remedial Massage
    • HLT50302 - Diploma of Remedial Massage
    • HLT50307 - Diploma of Remedial Massage
    • HLT52015 - Diploma of Remedial Massage
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine Remedial Massage, Shiatsu and Oriental Therapies
    • HLT50112 - Diploma of Traditional Chinese Medicine Remedial Massage (An Mo Tui Na)
    • HLT50202 - Diploma of Shiatsu and Oriental Therapies
    • HLT50207 - Diploma of Shiatsu and Oriental Therapies
    • HLT50212 - Diploma of Shiatsu and Oriental Therapies
    • HLT52115 - Diploma of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Remedial Massage
    • HLT52215 - Diploma of Shiatsu and Oriental Therapies.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2017 to 2021 program enrolments
  • 2017 to 2021 program completions
  • 2021 subject enrolments.

 

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

 

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Lightcast 2022, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Boston, viewed August 2022, https://lightcast.io/apac.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2019 and June 2022 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

ANZSCO occupations have been used as industry filters because they provide more relevant job vacancy data for this sector.

  • Generic skills / Occupations / Employers
    • 2511 Nutrition Professionals
    • 2522 Complementary Health Therapists
    • 4515 Personal Care Consultants
    • 4116 Massage Therapists.
Updated: 27 Oct 2022
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