Gender care gap costs women at work.

Who cares?

Research from AIG Life shows a gender care gap is costing women at work as they manage the majority of child care and often also care for elderly relatives. The study of more than 3,000 adults found women are nearly three times more likely to have to take time off work to look after children. The research shows 74 per cent of women say they are the main carer for children taking short or long periods off work to look after family compared with just 26 per cent of men.

That said, there are signs younger generations are changing attitudes – more than half (51 per cent) of men aged under-35 say they are the main carer for their children compared with 73 per cent of women aged under-35. It’s a more balanced picture on caring for elderly relatives – 76 per cent of women believe they will be the main carer for an elderly relative ahead of their partner compared with just 62 per cent of men. But just one in three women who take time out of the workplace to be a carer plan to return to full-time jobs compared with 59 per cent of men.

What the research also found is women are more likely to say they do not want to be a burden on their own children should they need care in the future – 51 per cent of women said they would not want to burden their children while 36 per cent of men felt the same.

The research shows women generally enjoy their jobs more – 58 per cent of women say they enjoy their jobs compared with 52 per cent of men. That isn’t translating into achieving career potential as 42 per cent of men believe they have overachieved in their career compared to 36 per cent of women. The research didn’t find a gender split on pay satisfaction either – 38 per cent of all adults believe they are not paid enough, and men are just as dissatisfied as women.

“The debate about how to balance family responsibilities with work and the roles of men and women has been running for a long time,” comments Debbie Bolton, head of customer services & chief underwriter at AIG Life. “Attitudes take a long time to change and there are signs that care giving in younger generations is becoming more balanced across the genders, but it is the case that many of us, including women, still believe caring duties rests solely with women. 

“What all families need to consider is where the care burden will fall and how they will manage financially if a family member is too ill to work, too ill to care for others and if they need someone to care for them,” she adds. “How will they manage financially if they have to give up work to care for a sick child, partner or elderly relative? None of us know what is around the corner, but we can take practical steps to plan for the future so we have the financial safety net to make choices based on what our family needs.”

AIG’s nationwide study, which is part of research into the issue of longevity and the societal impact of living to 100, also found that when a couple decides who will be the principle carer for an older relative, the primary factor is who is the blood relative (43 per cent) followed by who earns more money (21 per cent) and whose career is the most important (18 per cent).

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