Number of professional women with caring responsibilities rising

The number of professional and managerial women with caring responsibilities is rising and the number of hours of care that family carers provide is increasing generally, according to a recent report.

Carer Looking After an Elderly Lady


The Social Market Foundation‘s report points out that the more hours of care a person provides, the more likely they are to reduce their hours of work or exit the workforce altogether.

It warns that without better support for family carers, significant numbers of women will end up being driven out of the professional and managerial occupations, potentially reversing recent trends:

“We expect the labour market to become increasingly concentrated in the management and professional occupations and a failure to support working carers could lead to a reduction in the number of women in these roles.”

The 2018 report calculates that there are 7.6 million people in the UK who provide unpaid care for a relative – one million more than in 2005 and that almost 15% of adults now care for a relative.

Moreover, it estimates that the proportion of carers providing 20 or more hours a week has increased from 24% to 28% between 2005 and 2015. On average family carers provide 19.5 hours per week of care.

It says that an ageing population will mean a dramatic rise in the number of people relying on relatives to help care for them. Over the next 20 years, the number of older people receiving informal care is expected to rise by more than 60%.

Its  report, entitled Caring for Carers, is sponsored by Age UK and calculates that 59% of people caring for an elderly relative are women and 65% of people caring for a sick or disabled child are women.

It says 16.5% of women provide family care, up from 14.9% in 2005. The number of women carers has risen from 3.75 million to 4.45 million, an increase of 700,000. This compares to 12.4% of men who provide family care, up from 12% in 2005 – a rise of 364,000.

It calculates that 26% of women aged 55 – 59 provide care to a relative. Only 16% of men in the same age bracket do so.

After the age of 65, the gender gap on care closes, it says: 19% of women aged 65 – 69 provide care, which is the same proportion for men of the same age. Among over-70s, men are more likely to provide care, generally for wives and partners.

The only occupational social class where the proportion of women providing care rose was management/professionals: 19% of women in professional jobs provide care, up from 18% in 2005.

The proportion of women in “routine” occupations providing care fell, from 22% to 21%.

The report says carers are more likely to work less and earn less than those who do not have caring responsibilities:

  • Only 61% of high-hours carers have full-time jobs
  • Compared to 77% of people who don’t have caring responsibilities
  • Carers earn 13% less per hour than non-carers.
  • Men who care lose statistically more money as they are more likely to have had higher-earning full-time roles.

The SMF report makes a number of recommendations for the forthcoming Social Care Green Paper, including that employers should record the number of their staff who have caring responsibilities and that big employers should have to publish policies for supporting workers who care.

It adds that in the future “care pay gap” reporting could be required and calls for much greater use of “care navigators” to help family carers guide elderly relatives through the complex system of public sector bodies likely to be involved in their overall package of care.

Co-author James Kirkup said: “Growing numbers of employers want to talk about how they support parents at work, but not enough are helping staff combine work with caring for older relatives.

‘Care pay gap’ audits modelled on gender pay gap reporting could nudge employers to do better and keep more family carers in the workplace.”

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