Too Few Hours? The interaction of work and family care in an ageing Australia

  • Richard Percival

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    As the Australian population ages, it is expected that both the need for informal family care and its costs will rise. As they do, the concern has grown that this critical form of care may become more difficult to sustain.
    While there is little evidence that Australian families are becoming less responsive to the care needs of their members, very little research has been undertaken to understand the likely consequences of rises in the costs of providing this care. That is, who will be most affected if caring becomes more difficult to provide, and how will they respond?
    The primary research aim of this study was to enable a modelling capability with which to better understand these issues.
    The method used for this task was dynamic microsimulation modelling. Microsimulation enabled the simulation over substantial time periods of the varying responses of individuals to significant life changes – as they aged, and as their labour force commitments and family responsibilities changed.
    The research objectives of dynamic microsimulation rely on the broad simulation of time – e.g., how will the circumstances of different population groups change over the coming decades if anticipated changes, such as continuing population ageing occur? However, very few attempts have been made to capture the other much shorter but as critical time dimension that exists over these periods – how will changes to the daily time spent on a particular activity, such as caring, then affect the time able to be spent on other activities, such as earning an income?
    For this thesis, in estimating the effects of family caring, four relevant aspects were modelled over a period of 50 years – who was likely to need high levels of care while still living in the community; was this need likely to be met, and by whom; what time would the carer then spend providing the care; and, how would this commitment reduce the time available for paid work and, in turn, their income?
    The research found that significant income-related economic costs, actual and opportunity, are incurred after someone commits to providing informal care as a primary carer. Working aged female primary carers were working, on average, around 10 hours per week less than they would otherwise have and male primary carers, between 12 and 18 hours per week less. The disposable income costs of these time reductions were found to average around 20% for female carers and 23% for male carers.
    The modelling developed for this thesis also now allows these standard, time-constant estimates to be used as benchmarks against which the outcomes of future research can be compared, including as time relevant caring factors are allowed to change.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRobert Tanton (Supervisor), Simon Kelly (Supervisor), Ann Harding (Supervisor) & Justine Mcnamara (Supervisor)

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