Lifetime Economic Consequences to Women Informal Carers in Australia, 2006

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Conference Paper

Abstract

Home-based care provided by family members is the most common form of caring for people with disabilities in Australia. This model of care is, however, generating enormous financial consequences for informal carers. This study examines the impact of taking on a primary carer's role on financial well-being of women in Australia over the course of their working life, by comparing women primary carers and other women. Estimates are based on information drawn from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey Wave 6 and the life tables for Australian women. The economic indictors examined cover labour force participation and income. Income indicators include individual and family income from wages and salaries, and government benefits (public transfer). While there may be a wide range of caring situations, we focus on women aged 30 to 64 years, with two or more children, who are primary carers to their child with a disability. These women are divided into four categories by partnership status (single vs partnered mothers) and educational attainment (secondary school or less vs post-secondary education). Results show that over half of the women primary carers aged 30 to 64 years are not in the paid labour force compared to less than a third of other women in the same age group. Primary carers who do work spend fewer hours in paid employment than do other women. As a consequence of limited participation in paid work, primary carers earn considerably less income from wages and salaries over their working life compared to women with similar demographics. Mothers caring for a child with a disability are likely to earn over their working life, depending on their level of education, between a quarter and a half the income of women sharing the same demographics but who are not primary carers. While carers receive more in government cash benefits than other women, these payments do not compensate fully for the income they forgo from paid work. In conclusion, women primary carers have a bleaker financial prospect compared to that of other women. Policies for ensuring financial security of women primary carers are warranted.

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