Work and informal caregiving: challenges and opportunities

Watts, Jacqueline H. and Cavaye, Joyce (2016). Work and informal caregiving: challenges and opportunities. In: Ageing in Europe: Beyond the work-centred life course, 14-16 Sep 2016, Frankfurt, Germany.


Working in an employed role has become increasingly influential in structuring the lives of informal caregivers with this having a significant impact on their socio-economic wellbeing. Over the life course most caregivers move through periods of both commodified work (being employed in the labour market) and non-commodified work (caring and family work). Many carers are unable to sustain paid employment in light of increasing demands of caregiving, choosing to focus on their caregiving responsibilities. However, at the point when these responsibilities end, they are left financially worse off and face difficulties accessing paid work again with many unable to return to their previous roles.

Paid work and caregiving are perceived as different spheres - but for caregivers each creates conflicting demands. Uncommodified activities are less valued yet the informal sector carries the burden of social care with the monetary value placed on informal caregiving in the UK at £119 billion per year (1). Drawing on findings from a recent mixed methods study, this paper will discuss ways in which informal caregivers negotiate their employment status including how their ‘employability’ can be enhanced through skills and knowledge gained from caregiving.

(1) Buckner and Yeandle (2011) Valuing Carers 2011: Calculating the Value of Carers’ Support, Carers UK, The Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities and the University of Leeds, London, UK.

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