Carers would like to work more but face barriers

Carers would like to work more but face barriers

Media release — 8 May 2008

Australia's ageing population and a shift from institutional to community care has led to a dramatic increase in the number of women caring for family members with a disability or long term health problem.

However new research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies into the impact of caring responsibilities on labour market participation reveals that this shift comes at a personal financial cost.

'Even one year of informal care had a significant financial impact on the gross personal income of carers,' according to Institute Deputy Director of Research, Dr Matthew Gray.

The study found seven out of 10 carers want to be employed but have difficulty finding flexible working hours and alternative care for their family member.

Last year, 116,614 people received a Carer Payment, an increase of 145% since June 2000, and 393,263 received a Carer Allowance, an increase of 102% in the same period.

Dr Gray, who co-authored the study of 1,002 carers, said little was previously known about the impact of caring on the labour market participation of carers.

The study found 53% of women receiving a Carer Payment  are not in paid employment but would like to work.
“Carers make a significant contribution to the Australian economy and society, but they also bear significant personal costs,” Dr Gray said.

“Carers experience lower than average employment rates, and for many, taking on carer responsibilities leads to a decline in employment. Whether this decline in employment is temporary or permanent, it impacts on the carer and their family,” he said.

“For others, their care responsibilities means they may take more leave, or change their job or working arrangements.

“Carers have cited workplace flexibility and suitable alternative care arrangements as the major barriers to employment.

“Supporting carers who are not in paid employment but wish to be, could lead to a number of benefits including higher levels of social inclusion and improved labour market participation rates,” Dr Gray said.

Key findings of the study are:

  • 69.6% of those receiving a Carer Allowance and 53.6% of those receiving the Carer Payment who were not employed said they wanted to work;
  • Almost half of carers had worked immediately prior to commencing the carer’s role;
  • 83% of those receiving a Carer Allowance and 78.3% of those receiving a Carer Payment said that providing care was the main reason for leaving their job;
  • 58.8% of those receiving a Carer Payment who were employed at the time of the interview had temporarily given up work;
  • The majority of employed carers had changed jobs or their working arrangements in order to provide care.

The study, Caring and Women’s Labour Market Participation was undertaken by Dr Matthew Gray, Dr Ben Edwards and Dr Norbert Zmijewski and is published in the latest edition of the Institute’s Family Matters Publication (2008, no 78).

The study drew on the Families Caring for a Person with a Disability Survey of 1002 primary carers who received either the Carer Payment or Carer Allowance in June 2006.

Family Matters, no. 78, 2008 - table of contents and abstracts

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