Caring for our carers

This week marks National Carers Week – a week to acknowledge and appreciate the 2.7 million carers across Australia. According to the Australian Government’s Carer Gateway, one in eight people in Australia are carers.

Often the discussion about caring is based on caring for children. However, caring goes well beyond just caring for children.  It includes providing support or care to someone who:

  • Has a disability,
  • Has a mental health illness,
  • Has a medical problem (including ongoing or fatal illnesses), or
  • Is frail from old age.

It is important that all carers receive the right support from family, friends and their workplaces to ensure that they are well enough to look after their loved ones.

One way employers can support their own carer employees is to offer formal and informal flexible working arrangements. These types of arrangements allow carers to fit work around their personal responsibilities. 

Fortunately, more employers are prioritising flexible work year-on-year, with a 13.2 percentage point increase in organisations adopting a flexible working policy or strategy between 2013-14 to 2017-18.

Types of formal flexible work offered - Carers Week 2019
Types of informal flexible work offered - Carers Week 2019

‘Care work’ falls within the broader category of ‘unpaid care work’, which also includes domestic work such as cooking, cleaning and home maintenance, caring for children and voluntary community work.

While both women and men, young and old, can find themselves as carers at some point in their lives, WGEA research has confirmed that women devote more time in unpaid care work than men. This unequal distribution contributes to unequal outcomes in workforce participation and job opportunities and ultimately, it is a driver of the gender pay gap.

With the monetary value of unpaid care work in Australia has been estimated to be $650.1 billion, the equivalent to 50.6% of GDP, it is clear unpaid care work is essential to the economic wellbeing of individuals, families and the Australian community.

This National Carers Week, we should all look at how we can support the large community of carers in Australia – whether at home or at work.