More than 80,000 extra carers in next decade, says report

The number of carers for those with a severe disability may increase by about 80,000 over the next decade, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The number of primary carers could rise from an estimated 493,000 in 2003 to 574,000 by 2013. The largest growth is likely to occur among carers aged 60 years or more-a 34% increase between 2003 and 2013-to the point where at least 1 in 3 primary carers will be aged 60 or more.

The number of carers aged between 25 and 59 is likely to increase by at least 20%.

The report, The future supply of informal care: 2003 to 2013, looks at factors that may affect the future supply of informal care. These include Australia's ageing population, an increase in female labour force participation, and changed living arrangements.

Head of the AIHW's Ageing and Aged Care Unit, Dr Anne Jenkins, said that a common belief was that there would be a future shortage of carers because of increased numbers of women in the workforce.

'Our study shows that the reality is much more complex than that, with many factors coming into play with regard to whether or not people take up a caring role.'

Some of these factors include the following:

  • the increase in women's labour force participation is predominantly in part-time work;
  • 1 in 3 female carers are in paid work (34%);
  • 29% of carers are over the age of 60;
  • just over 1 in 3 of older carers are men (37%);
  • over the next decade large numbers of baby boomers will move into traditional primary carer age groups (45-64 years), thereby increasing the potential 'pool' of informal carers.

'These findings highlight the need to develop carer support programs that cater to a range of groups-men as well as women across all age groups, and to those combining paid work and caring as well as those not in the labour force,' Dr Jenkins said.

'The study informs the increasing national focus on the needs and problems of carers and efforts on the part of governments to provide support to carers.'

In 2003, approximately 493,000 voluntary primary carers provide support for more than 1.2 million Australians who are severely or profoundly restricted in their daily activities.

If current trends continue, the number of Australians needing everyday support is expected to increase to more than 1.4 million by 2013. Population shifts beyond 2013 are likely to change this balance again.

The future supply of informal care: 2003 to 2013 was jointly funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and the AIHW.

28 November 2003

Further information: Dr Anne Jenkins, AIHW, tel. 6244 1108, or tel. 0419 296 053
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032