Across the world, women have been at the forefront of providing care to others, particularly children, since time immemorial. In our own LHD we know that the majority of nurses, doctors and Allied Health employees are women. It is therefore hardly surprizing that the majority of Carers of people who are frail aged or have a disability or chronic condition are female. In fact, around 68% of primary Carers in Australia are. This is changing as gender stereotypes are challenged and more women take up paid work. But research tells us that women still bear the brunt of providing care in society. In Australia, the economic value of the contribution of Carers to the Australian economy has been estimated at over $60billion a year, if all the care was to be replaced by formal services.
Many women take on their caring role willingly; borne out of feelings of love or responsibility for the person for whom they care. For others, it is not a role they would choose but something they feel obliged to do as there may be no one else prepared to care for the person and inadequate services to fill the gap.
Just as we know inequalities still exist in rates of pay for women in relation to men, we also know that despite the increased political and media focus on the importance of Carers in our families and communities in recent years, Carers remain one of the most disadvantage groups in our society. Access to further education, ability to participate in the workforce and saving for the future, including contributing to superannuation, are all impacted by their caring role. Further, the demands of caring contribute to higher rates of anxiety, depression, physical injury and social isolation.
However, there are also many positive aspects to caring that Carers report: