Caring Costs Us: The economic impact on lifetime income and retirement savings of informal carers – a report for Carers Australia – Summary of Findings

‘Caring Costs Us: The economic impact on lifetime income and retirement savings of informal carers – a report for Carers Australia’ (Caring Costs Us Report) was prepared by Evaluate on behalf of Carers Australia. Evaluate is an independent private economic consulting practice, with a particular focus on social policy.

Carers Australia and the National Carer Network – our members, the peak carer organisations in each state and territory – commissioned the Caring Costs Us Report to highlight the economic impact of unpaid care on the lifetime income and retirement savings of Australian carers.

Every day, over 2.65 million carers provide care and support to people living with disability, chronic or life-limiting illness, are frail aged or have a mental illness, alcohol or other drug related condition. Carers Australia uses the term ‘carer’ as defined by the Commonwealth Carer Recognition Act 2010 (the Act), where it should not be used broadly and without context to describe a paid care worker, volunteer, foster carer or a family member or friend who is not a carer.

This paper follows from prior work undertaken for Carers Australia looking at the value of informal care in Australia which found it would have cost $77.9 billion in 2020 to replace this care with formal paid services, such as those accessed via My Aged Care or the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The right to participate in economic, social and community life is recognised under the Act which states carers “should be supported to achieve greater economic wellbeing and sustainability and, where appropriate, should have opportunities to participate in employment and education.”

Carers in Australia experience considerably poorer employment outcomes, with a 52.2% employment to population ratio compared with 75.9% for people without caring responsibilities. The education and employment prospects for Australia’s 235,000 young carers are also poor where more than 60% of young carers have not studied beyond high school, and on average are expected to receive income support for 43 years over their lifetime.

Carers Australia has prepared this summary document to highlight what we believe to be the key findings of the overall Caring Costs Us Report:

  • Australian carers lose a considerable amount in lifetime earnings and superannuation

  • The age a person becomes a carer is significant on the financial impact of caring

  • Income support through Carer Payment is less than 30% of the average weekly earnings

  • The value of the Carer Allowance has significantly decreased since its introduction

  • No real improvement in government expenditure on informal care

Overall, the Caring Costs Us Report demonstrates a significant disparity in governments’ willingness to fund formal care services compared to investing in adequate financial assistance for carers to sustainably continue their caring roles and have security at retirement age. There is no coherent policy argument for this, and it appears manifestly unjust. Where the rewards for caring are reduced, the opportunity cost of care increases, and fewer people will be willing and able to meet the demand for carers in the future.