The replacement value of the care provide by Australia’s unpaid carers has increased to $60.3 billion per year – over $1 billion every week, according to a new report by Deloitte Access Economics for Carers Australia, The Economic Value of Informal Care in Australia 2015.
It is estimated that more than 1 in 8 Australians are providing informal care in 2015. 825,000 informal carers are ‘primary carers’, people who provide the majority of the recipient’s care. Proportionally, older age groups are more likely to provide care than younger people. Informal carers are also more likely to be female and predominantly fall within the age range of 25-64 years.
Informal carers provided an estimated 1.9 billion hours of care. This is equivalent to each carer providing about 13 hours of care per week. If all hours of informal care provided in 2015 were replaced with services purchased from formal care providers, the replacement value of informal care would be $60.3 billion (equivalent to 3.8 per cent of gross domestic product and 60 per cent of the health and social work industry).
The report also warns of an ever-widening gap between demand and supply and predicts that by 2025 only 42 per cent of those with a severe disability aged over 65 and not living in residential care will have access to an unpaid carer. There are approximately 10,000 fewer carers in 2015 than there were in 2010 due to a declining propensity to care.
The widening carer gap has significant policy implications for Australia’s future. The report proposes investigating possible solutions to help boost the propensity to supply care and to soften the demand for informal care where possible, including:
- greater flexibility in working arrangements to accommodate workers’ caring responsibilities and employment preferences
- improvements in access to, and awareness of, carer support services such as respite care to encourage service utilisation and alleviate the impact of caring
- further investigation of carer perceptions of the costs and quality of formal care to encourage an optimal mix of formal and informal care provision
- adapting the formal care sector to meet the needs of older Australians from diverse backgrounds to improve the flexibility of care options.
The full report is available on the Carers Australia website.