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Unpaid Carers Facing Significant Economic Disadvantage


Unpaid carers in Australia face a significant economic disadvantage, research reveals, prompting the launch of a campaign to bridge the gap between unpaid care and workforce participation.

Research commissioned by Mind Australia, found mental health carers were significantly less likely to be employed compared to working age non-carers.

Ara Cresswell, the CEO of Carers Australia, said many carers suffered lifelong disadvantage as a result of weak or outmoded government policies and inadequate workplace supports.  

“Unpaid carers are essential to our society working, and the structural support they provide to the Australian economy is increasingly critical as our population ages,” Cresswell said.

“Without radical reforms that enable carers to remain in, or re-enter the workforce, the health and social care systems that we take for granted are at risk of collapse.

“Many family carers don’t get the support they need to access and remain in work, and this needs to change. It is absolutely vital for the government and employers to improve supports to end the disadvantage unpaid carers suffer.”

The research identified women as those most likely to be unpaid carers, and also noted the large number of young Australians taking on carer roles.  

In 2015, there were 20,700 primary carers of people with disability, chronic illness and mental illness aged between 15 and 24, along with many young carers under the age of 15 who faced “specific and acute disadvantage”.

The report said: “This research points to the need for a wider cultural change about the value we attach to those who provide unpaid care in Australia.”

Dr Sarah Pollock, the executive director of research and advocacy at Mind Australia, said employers needed to understand the demands on carers and also the benefits of providing carer-friendly workplaces.

“Failing to hold onto experienced workers represents a significant loss of investment in resources, time and knowledge,” Pollock said.

“For young people, we need sophisticated policies and interventions that help them stay in education, and to provide support for their health and wellbeing, so they don’t face lifelong disadvantage.”

The research has prompted Mind Australia to launch a campaign, Caring Fairly, which is backed by more than 20 organisations and peak bodies across every state and territory.

This new policy platform – aimed at federal government and the business community – seeks to bridge the gap between unpaid care and workforce participation, while delivering fairer and more inclusive outcomes for all unpaid carers in Australia.

Mind Australia-commissioned research in 2017, found there were 240,000 unpaid mental health carers in Australia providing support worth more than $13 billion to the nation’s economy.

Research from Deloitte Access Economics estimated the replacement cost of all carers in 2015 was $60.1 billion, or approximately 3.8 per cent of GDP.  

 Source: Probono Australia, Luke Michael, 21 August 2018



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