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A closer look at unpaid carers

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carers, women, pensions, healthCensus figures show bulk of caring responsibility falls on women, especially those aged 50-64.

Figures released from the 2011 Census last week reveal that the majority of unpaid carers in England and Wales, 58 per cent, are women.

And 11.8 per cent of all women are carers, compared with 8.9 per cent of men.

Caring responsibilities increase with age – and so does the gender imbalance.

Nearly a quarter of women aged 50 to 64 are carers, compared with 17 per cent of men in the same age group.

Working women are more likely to be carers than those who do not work;  12.1 per cent of full time female workers and 16.1 per cent of part-timers in England were carers.

And this extra work takes its toll on their health.

Women in full-time work providing more than 50 hours unpaid care were almost three times more likely to report poor health than full-time female workers who are not carers.

Male carers in full-time work were only two and a half times more likely to report poor health.

According to Carers UK, the number of middle-aged female carers in the UK as a whole has risen by 13 per cent in the last 10 years and now totals 1.2 million.

This is a sharper increase than the total number of carers which has increased by 11 per cent to 6.5 million.

Carers UK estimates that the total cost to the economy of carers giving up work is £5.3 billion a year.

The charity also points to the increasing challenge for employers, as Census figures also show that 1 in 8 workers are juggling work with caring for older or disabled loved ones.

Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said:Becoming a carer can turn your world upside-down and when that responsibility falls in middle age it can change your working and personal life irreversibly.

“Women who have struggled to juggle childcare and work are now also finding themselves caring for ageing parents – and sometimes also a seriously ill partner.

“Without the right support, women are forced to leave work, or reduce their hours at an age where it is a real challenge to re-enter the work force when caring comes to an end.

“This brings serious consequences for their incomes and pensions, as well as a wider cost to the UK economy.”

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