Older carers and paid work in Australia

Caring for older people is set to overtake caring for children as the issue concerning both workers and employers as the population ages, a new report has found.

The National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre report A Juggling Act: older carers and paid work in Australia said that unlike child care, the workload of elder care increases over time.

More flexible working hours would enable 61% of carers to work an average of 18 hours a week.

The report used data from a 2011/12 study of more than 3,000 Australians showing that 28 per cent aged 45-74 were providing care for either a child or an adult and more than half were providing care for 20 or more hours per week.

But the numbers of older people were set to rise dramatically with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing over-65s outnumbering children under 15 by 2030 and over-85s making up 4 per cent of the population by 2040, compared with only 2 per cent in 2012.

“All this begs the question: who will help these older Australians and how can the carers take care of themselves when the time comes,” National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said.

“One in three carers has an illness, injury or disability and nearly half – mostly women – are caring for someone with a long-term illness or disability.

“Finding a paid job is hard enough for older people but for older carers it can be even harder, with care-giving responsibilities preventing nearly half of them from seeking paid work or building their super.”

The report found that just over half those surveyed who were caring for an adult said they had difficulty in accumulating super, either because their caring duties prevented them from seeking paid work or from working more hours.

“It’s been estimated that Australian carers forgo $4.9 billion in potential income due to their caring responsibilities,” O’Neill said.

“Flexible working hours would enable 61 per cent of them to work an average of 18 hours a week.

“And if all these people were able to find paid work, the number of employed people aged 45-74 years would increase by 4 per cent.

“That translates into a lot of savings for tax payers and some much-needed financial security for carers at home doing an invaluable job.”

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