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Are you a carer?

If you are, the chances are you are unpaid. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that almost half of all unpaid carers are over 50, with 24% over the age of 65. Over 50% of primary carers cited family responsibility as a reason for taking on the caring role, as they care for parents, in-laws, children, and grandchildren.

Fulltime-Caring-for-Parents A new report released this week suggests eleven areas of reform that will value unpaid caring in Australia and remove the lifelong disadvantage experienced by many people who care.

Launching the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Investing in care: Recognising and valuing those who care report in Sydney, Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said that the majority of caring in our community was undertaken by women and that the current superannuation, taxation and employment systems severely disadvantaged them.

“People who make the valuable contribution and personal sacrifices of caring for parents, in-laws, children, grand-children and others in our community with disability, chronic illness or frailty due to old age are penalised by a system that does not recognise this invaluable personal and socio-economic contribution,” Commissioner Broderick said.

“2009 statistics show 5.5 million women and men between the ages of 15 and 64 undertake unpaid care in Australia.”

“The failure of our superannuation and taxation systems, alone, to recognise this contribution and provide a value for this unpaid work means that carers – mostly women – who have had long and repeated absences from paid employment, find they have negligible retirement savings and indeed, often retire in poverty,” Ms Broderick said. “Considering the contribution these people have made to our economy by undertaking this unpaid work, it is time we changed this outcome.”

Commissioner Broderick said the Investing in care report was intended as a discussion paper that would kickstart consideration of potential policy reforms in Australia.

“There is no single initiative that will solve this problem – we will need a combination of reforms to achieve change in relation to unpaid caring,” Commissioner Broderick said.

“Our report suggests 11 options for policy reform drawn from research and analysis of a range of mechanisms and models used to value unpaid caring work, in Australia and another 24 countries around the world,” Ms Broderick said. “The report advocates evidence-based options for reform concerned with strengthening and further developing legislation, flexible work arrangements, income support, leave arrangements, resourcing of services, workplace initiatives, workplace culture, and the retirement incomes and savings system.”

Commissioner Broderick said real change would require thinking and commitment from government, industry, small and large businesses, employers, employees, unions – all those who do the work of unpaid care, and those who are cared for.

The report is available at: www.humanrights.gov.au/sex_discrimination/VUCW_australiaResearchPrj/index.htm