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This week eS4W issued our White Paper on “The impact of unpaid care work on women’s (and men’s) economic security“. This White Paper outlines the costs to individual carers, and the financial benefits to the Commonwealth and State and Territory budgets from those who undertake unpaid care for their loved ones.

It covers all aspects of unremunerated personal care
including care for children, aged or disabled family members or other people
who require assistance to lead a dignified and reasonable life.

Carers Australia state that carers are people who provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, an alcohol or other drug issue or who are frail and aged. (Carers Australia, About Carers, 2019)

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, unpaid caring work
is undertaken by two main groups in Australia:

  • parents (who include biological, step, adoptive, or foster parents, and
    grandparents or guardians with caring responsibilities for a dependent child);
    and
  • carers (who include people caring for a family member or friend with
    disability, chronic illness or frailty due to older age. Persons with
    disability include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or
    sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their
    full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Care will affect all of us in our lives, either as parents and carers and/or as people being cared for.  (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2013)

It is important to emphasise that the focus in this paper relates to the
economic and financial disadvantage of those providing the care and in no way
attributes the shortcomings in financial and economic security for carers, to
those receiving the care.

Unpaid care is a significant part of Australian society and the economy, with the bulk of caring work undertaken by women. As the United Nation notes, “the gender imbalances in the unpaid care work burden act as a systematic source of gender inequalities in a myriad of other economic and social outcomes.“ (UN Women, 2018)

The
extent of unpaid care work within the economy, and given it attracts no
superannuation contributions, is a critical factor undermining the economic and
financial security for women. Not only does it reinforce the persistently wide
gender pay gap, it also means that as women approach retirement age, they have
little or no accumulated superannuation. These dynamics contribute to a high
risk of a low standard of living, even poverty, for many older women.

The good
news is that policy changes can be implemented that will ensure carers have
financial recognition for their personal sacrifices. When implemented, the
changes will also deliver a significant addition to the economy more broadly as
recipients of the additional payments add to consumer spending.

Rather than to dig deeper into the already excellent
research and analysis of the issues associated with unpaid care and the impact
this has on women and their economic security, the main focus of this White
Paper is to propose proactive policy solutions that can be implemented or
phased in to correct what are obvious and material problems for many women
because of their provision of unpaid care.

These policy recommendations acknowledge the value of
unpaid care and when implemented, will be a critical step forward in improving the
economic security of women.