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The reality of getting older is working as an unpaid carer

New Census data shows that the people most likely to be providing unpaid care are those who have reached their 50s.  

The Census data on ‘Milestones: journeying through modern life’, which was released last week, found that of all people that provide unpaid care, more than a quarter are in their 50s and people are more likely to be providing unpaid care at age 59 than any other age.

person crying beside bed

Within the Census, ‘unpaid care’ includes giving help or support to parents, partners and other friends or family because of a long-term health condition or illness.

The research, which was published the Office of National Statistics (ONS), highlights that more women than men are providing unpaid care, with 12% of women aged 16 and over doing the labour compared to 8% of men.

In addition, women also spend more time doing unpaid housework while men spend more time doing paid work, according to the data.

Stephen Lowe, group communications director at retirement specialist Just Group, said: ‘Providing unpaid care is a big responsibility and can be very rewarding emotionally, but it is also draining both financially and mentally.

‘It is no surprise that those in their 50s – who fall into Generation X or Generation Anxiety – are most likely to be providing unpaid care as they take on a variety of caring responsibilities for elderly relatives in the face of the stressed later-life care system.’  

The results from the 2021 Census likewise showcase the importance of driving more people into the social care industry. Currently, UK authorities are working to make the sector more desirable, however these findings suggest that perhaps much more will need to be done.

Stephen added: ‘Our polling found that more than one in 10 (11%) of Generation X (people born between 1965-1980) are chipping in to provide financial support for the care of their elderly relatives estimating that they were spending an average of £237.50 a week – or £12,350 a year – around £800 more than the full new State Pension is now worth (£11,542).

‘When we asked how they felt about contributing to their parents or relatives’ care costs, the majority of respondents answered that they felt poorer (54%) and more tired (53%) as a result. A further four in 10 felt unprepared (39%) and a similar proportion were stressed (42%).

‘Providing this care, which often takes the carer out of the labour market, is another financial burden on top of mortgage repayments, supporting children, saving into a pension and working later into life that this generation must carry amid an uncertain economic environment. It emphasises the need for clear, deliverable social care policies which we hope to see in manifestos ahead of the upcoming General Election.’

Image: Claudia Wolff

More on this topic:

Almost half of unpaid carers not getting enough support, survey shows

40% of unpaid carers face financial difficulties, new research found

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