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Victorian Womens Health Atlas

Spotlight on Women and unpaid care - June 2018

Women’s unpaid care work makes a huge contribution to the economy and the wellbeing of families and communities. Despite our society’s reliance on it, women’s unpaid care work is often taken for granted because of the expectation that unpaid care is naturally or traditionally women’s responsibility, and not really ‘work’.

In Australia, it is more common for women to provide care in all age groups between the ages of 18-74. Women are also more likely than men to have care responsibilities involving greater time and intensity. In Victoria, 71% of all primary carers (defined as carers who provide the majority of the ongoing informal assistance to a person with a disability) are women. Half of all Victorian carers take on a caring role because they believe they can provide better care than available services, and 35% of primary carers spend on average 40 hours or more per week providing care.

The undervaluing of women’s unpaid care work is linked to poorer health and wellbeing outcomes for carers and limits women’s participation in the paid workforce. It is also related to the undervaluing of paid work in care-related of ‘feminised’ industries, such as child care and community services. Carers are likely to accrue little or no superannuation because of lowered participation in paid work and reliance on income support. This impacts the ability of carers to fund their own retirement or future care needs.

Improving the suitability of, and confidence in, social supports and services for people who require care would improve the circumstances, health and wellbeing of women in unpaid care roles. Also important is the need to transform gendered norms so that unpaid care work is shared more equitably between women and men.

Spotlight-on-women-and-unpaid-care_Jun_2018A.pdf (284.68KB)