Caregiving and Working at Age 50+

New SHARE-based study explores how providing informal care affects employment.

(October 2018) As the European population is ageing, the increasing number of older people in need of continuous long-term support represents a major challenge for individuals as well as social and healthcare systems. Currently, informal caregiving is the most common source of long-term care, with children often assuming the role of caregivers to their ageing parents or older family members. As informal caregiving requires a commitment of time and effort, it can interfere with one’s employment status and working hours. Thus, researchers Nicola Ciccarelli and Arthur Van Soest explore if and how providing care to an ageing family member affects the individual’s paid work activities.

For their analysis, the authors draw upon data from waves 1, 2, 4 and 5 (2004-2013) of the Survey on Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), using input from 27.867 individuals aged 50-70 years from 15 European countries.

Female caregivers bear the biggest burden

As anticipated, the authors find that the frequency of care provision has an impact on the caregiver’s employment status and working hours. While providing care on a weekly basis (or less frequently) does not affect paid work, daily caregiving significantly reduces the likelihood of being employed by 22 percent. Furthermore, taking care of a parent, grandparent, stepparent or a parent-in-law on a daily basis leads to a 27.7 percent decrease of work hours for both men and women. However, Ciccarelli and Van Soest further explored if there is a significant difference between genders in the effect of daily caregiving on employment.

They find that the results differ between genders and highlight the disproportionate burden carried by women. More specifically, they estimate that women providing daily unpaid informal care are more than 30 percent less likely to be employed. Among those who are employed, intensive caregiving leads to a 31.8 percent decrease in the number of paid work hours. These results are homogenous across all examined countries.

Legislative measures necessary to improve formal and informal care provision

If formal care possibilities would "become so scarce or expensive that daily or almost daily informal care needs to be provided, then the large negative effects on employment and hours of paid work that we find would be a source of concern”, point out the authors. Emphasising the intensifying adverse impact of unavailability of formal long-term care, the results call on policy-makers to develop specific solutions that reduce the need for informal care or appropriately subsidise such. A crucial factor that should be considered in the decision-making process is the substantial gender-gap observed in the provision of informal care.

Study by Nicola Ciccarelli and Arthur Van Soest (2018): Informal Caregiving, Employment Status and Work Hours of the 50+ Population in Europe. De Economist (online first). 


Foto: Ocskay Mark /