Two-thirds of UK adults can expect to become unpaid carers during their lifetimes, with half of all women becoming carers by the age of 46. Women are more likely to care for older, disabled or ill relatives, over a decade earlier than men.
The Carers UK: The Will I Care report highlighted that 65% of adults provide unpaid care for a loved one and that women had a 70% chance of becoming a carer. It was not until the age of 57 that men and women had the same prospect of delivering care.
Carers UK research found that 73% of women were carers in Wales, compared with 70% in Scotland, and 69% in both England and Northern Ireland. Whereas men are more likely to care for a parent or spouse, female carers often provide care to a range of recipients, including non-relatives.
Consequently, women are caring at ages when they would expect to be in paid employment. Women aged 45-54 are more than twice as likely than men to have given up work to care and over four times more likely to have reduced working hours due to caring responsibilities. Additionally, women more likely than men to be 'sandwich' carers, as they care for their children and parents at the same time. As a result, this can impact their employment and harms future finances, such as savings and pensions. Therefore women are more likely to earn less in later life than men.
However, it is also essential to recognise that 42% of the UK’s unpaid carers are male, with 25% of men interviewed by Carers.org cared for a loved one for more than 60 hours a week, as well as worked. This challenges the common assumption that caring is purely a female-dominated sector.
Head of the Sustainable Care Program at Sheffield, Professor Sue Yeandle, explained that "caring is vital for us all and a precious support for those we love at critical times…. Yet too often, carers pay a heavy price for the support they give- financial strain, poorer health, social isolation".
Carers UK found that more carers are struggling to manage due to a lack of support. The organisation wants the government to address this "gender care gap" by bringing in five to ten days of paid care leave.