Government report shows increase in number of workers balancing care commitments

A new official report has highlighted the increasing number of people who are having to balance caring for family members with their own working commitments. Catherine Foot, the Director of Evidence for the Centre for Ageing Better, responded to these statistics by calling for legislation to promote flexible working among older workers. Published by the Office for National Statistics, the report has found that one in four older female workers, and one in eight older male workers, have care responsibilities.

In 2016, around 2 million adults received informal care. This type of care, the report states, is “essential our society and the economy” and was valued in 2016 at £59.5 billion. This level of unpaid care is the equivalent of 4 million social care workers working at their median weekly hours every week of the year.

The report defined carer using the definition proposed by the Department of Health and Social Care. This defines a carer as “anyone who spends time looking after or helping a friend, family member of neighbour who, because of their health and care needs, would find it difficult to cope without this help.”

Older female workers, who are twice as likely to act as informal carers than men, are far more likely than men to work part-time

Beyond these headlines, the report found that it is people in their 50s and 60s that are most likely to provide informal care.  Nearly 60 per cent of carers in the UK are aged 50 or above and 20 per cent of people aged between 50 and 69 act as informal carers. The ONS also found that older female workers, who are twice as likely to act as informal carers than men, are far more likely than men to work part-time. 62 per cent of women in employment worked part-time, compared to only 24 per cent of men.

The report concluded that as the population ages, more older workers will need to take on caring responsibilities.  The gendered discrepancy between part-time and fulltime employment, the report states, will also lead to lower pension security among older women. Completing their findings, the ONS summarised: “We have shown that working and caring can be combined. Currently, most of this care is provided by women.”

In a statement, Catherine Foot, Director of Evidence, Centre for Ageing Better, said: “The latest figures reinforce how many people approaching later life have to balance work and other responsibilities with caring unpaid for partners and older relatives. One in five people in their 50s, 60s and 70s provide unpaid care and, across all ages, almost a quarter of women in the workforce are also carers.

Caring for a parent is now the most prevalent type of caring and, with people living longer, it is likely to become more common in future

“Caring for a parent is now the most prevalent type of caring and, with people living longer, it is likely to become more common in future. More and more people will face the difficult reality of managing the everyday pressures of life while at the same time caring for a loved one.

“Caring responsibilities can significantly impact people’s ability to keep working. By the year people reach State Pension Age, nearly half of all people have already stopped working, and caring is a major contributor to this. We need to make flexible working the default option for everyone, legislate to introduce flexible, paid carers’ leave, and give carers a Right to Return to the same job.”

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