Unpaid carers suffering economic and social disadvantages
A new report has revealed the scale of economic disadvantages faced by Australia’s “hidden workforce” of unpaid carers
More than 2.7 million carers are providing unpaid care and are experiencing serious disadvantaged as a result, according to a new report.
The scale of economic disadvantage faced by a “hidden workforce” of carers for family and friends have revealed systematic social shortcomings. Last year, it found unpaid mental health carers were worth more than $13 billion to the economy.
CEO of Carers Australia, Ara Cresswell, said: “Unpaid carers are essential to our society working, and the structural support they provide to the Australian economy is increasingly critical as our population ages.
“Without radical reforms that enable carers to remain in, or re-enter the workforce, the health and social care systems that we take for granted are at risk of collapse.”
This research compares to research conducted by Deloitte Access Economics that estimated the replacement costs in 2015 at $60.1 billion.
This year, it found that women are most likely to be unpaid carers and a significant number of young Australians are taking on carer roles. In 2015, there were 20,700 primary carers of people with disability, chronic illness and mental health between the ages of 15 and 24. There are also many young carers under the age of 15.
Executive Director of Research and Advocacy at Mind Australia, Dr Sarah Pollock, said: “For young people, we need sophisticated policies and interventions that help them stay in education, and to provide support for their health and wellbeing, so they don’t face lifelong disadvantage.”
In response to the serious issues revealed in the research, Mind Australia has led the establishment of a new national campaigning coalition, Caring Fairly, backed by over 20 organisations and peak bodies spanning Australia.
“Employees, both public and private, need to understand the demands on carers, and be aware of the benefits of their businesses of providing carer-friendly workplaces. Failing to hold onto experienced workers represents a significant loss of investment in resources, time and knowledge,” Pollock said.
With the research launch, Caring Fairly will announce a new policy platform aimed at the federal government, businesses and employers. The policies will bridge the gap between unpaid care and workforce participation to deliver fairer outcomes.
“Many family carers don’t get the support they need to access and remain in work, and this needs to change,” Cresswell said. “It is absolutely vital for the government and employers to improve supports to end the disadvantage unpaid carers suffer.”
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