4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2018 Quality Declaration 
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Carers

The 2018 SDAC showed that the number of carers has decreased to 2.65 million, down from 2.70 million in 2015.

In 2018:

  • around one in nine (10.8%) Australians provided unpaid care to people with disability and older Australians, down from 11.6% in 2015
  • 3.5% (861,600 people) of all Australians aged 15 years and over were primary carers - the carer who provided the most assistance to a person with disability (similar to 3.7% or 855,900 people in 2015)
  • around 1 in 11 carers (235,300 people) were under the age of 25, down from 274,700 in 2015.

Overall, females were more likely to be carers than males with 12.3% of all females providing care in 2018 (similar to 12.8% in 2015), and 9.3% of all males (down from 10.4% in 2015).

Definitions:
Carer - a person who provides any informal assistance (help or supervision) to people with disability or older people (aged 65 years and over). Carers can be split into two groups:
Primary carer - a person aged 15 years and over who provides the most informal assistance to a person with disability for the core activities of mobility, self-care and communication.
Other carer – a person of any age who provides unpaid care with one or more of the core activity tasks but is not the main provider of informal care (i.e. not a primary carer); or a person who only provides assistance with non-core activities.
For more information on carers see the relevant Appendix.

All carers - age and sex

The rate of caring generally increased with age:
  • from 1.0% of those aged under 15 years to 19.7% of those aged 55 to 64 years
  • from the age of 65 years, the rate of women providing unpaid care declined (from 20.3% of those aged 65 to 74 years to 12.1% of those 75 years and over)
  • the rate of men providing unpaid care remained fairly consistent from 65 years of age (17.3% of those aged 65 to 74, and 19.0% of those 75 years and over).

Proportion of Australians who provide informal care(a), by age and sex, 2018
Graph shows that the proportion of all carers generally increased with age until 65 years when the rate of women providing unpaid care declined, while for men the rate remained fairly consistent.
Footnote(s):
(a) Living in households
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Primary carers

Primary carers are those who provide the most assistance to a person with disability with one or more of the core activities of mobility, self-care or communication. Their lives are often significantly impacted by their caring role. Much of the remaining analysis focuses on primary carers.
  • Among the 2.6 million carers, one-third (32.6%) were identified as primary carers
  • overall, women were 2.5 times more likely than men to be a primary carer (5.0% compared with 2.0%)
  • women represented seven in every ten primary carers (71.8%)
  • the average age of a primary carer was 54 years (51 years for carers overall and 50 years for other carers).

Carer prevalence by sex(a), 2015 and 2018
Graph shows that in 2018, women were more likely than men to be primary carers (5.0% compared with 2.0%), similar to 2015 (5.0% compared with 2.4%).
Footnote(s):
(a) Includes only persons living in households
(b) By definition, primary carers are aged 15 years and over
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Disability status of primary carers

Primary carers provide care to someone with disability, but can also be living with disability themselves.
  • Over one-third (37.4%) of primary carers had disability, twice the rate of non-carers (15.3%)
  • 44.3% of male primary carers had disability, compared with 35.0% of female primary carers
  • a similar proportion of male and female primary carers reported having a profound or severe limitation (7.2% of males and 6.8% of females).

See Glossary for more information on disability limitation/restriction severity levels.

Primary carers - age and sex

The overall pattern across age for primary carers was similar to that for all carers, with the rate of primary carers increasing to the age of around 64 years:
  • 0.6% of those aged 15-24 years provided primary care compared with 7.1% of those aged 55-64 years
  • 6.7% of those aged 65-74 were primary carers while the rate declined to 5.3% of those aged 75 years and over.

Proportionally, there were more female primary carers in all but the youngest and oldest age groups. When considering the number of carers however, there were a greater number of female carers than male carers in all age groups with the exception of those aged 75 years and over, with some age groups having double the number of female carers compared with males. In particular there were:
  • 148,900 female primary carers aged 55-64 years, more than twice the number of male primary carers of the same age group (57,000)
  • 148,300 female primary carers aged 45-54 years, almost three times the number of male primary carers of the same age group (50,100).

Number of primary carers, by age and sex, 2018
Graph shows that the number of female primary carers was higher than the number of male primary carers in all age groups except 75 years and over.
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Recipients of care

The SDAC collects information about both the carer and recipients of care, allowing for comparison of this relationship, which varies with age.

In 2018, primary carers most commonly provided care to:
  • a spouse or partner (36.6%)
  • their child (27.1%)
  • a parent (26.2%).

In 2018, of all primary carers:
  • over half (54.8%) of those providing care to a spouse or partner were aged 65 years and over
  • the majority (88.1%) of those providing care to a child were female, almost half of which were aged between 25 to 44 years (48.5%)
  • almost two-thirds (64.9%) of those providing care to a parent were aged between 45 and 64 years.

Living arrangements

The majority of primary carers (79.1%) resided in the same household as the person for whom they provided the most care. Of primary carers who did not live with their main recipient of care:
  • two-thirds (67.0%) were caring for a parent
  • a large proportion (64.6%) were aged between 45 and 64 years.

Assistance provided

Carers provide help with both core and non-core activities (see Carers Appendix for detail). These activities can range from helping someone to eat or bathe, to helping them with their finances, health care or property maintenance.

Core activities

In 2018, over half of all primary carers said they assisted or supervised the main person they cared for with the following core activities:
  • mobility tasks (74.0%)
  • self-care (56.5%)
  • communication (54.1%).

In terms of the specific mobility activities for which primary carers provided help:
  • two thirds (65.6%) helped the person they care for to move around when they were away from home
  • three in ten (28.7%) helped the person they care for to get in or out of a bed or chair.

Among primary carers who assisted with self-care activities:
  • two in five (41.5%) assisted with dressing (a decrease from 44.9% in 2015)
  • around one-third (35.8%) assisted with bathing and showering (similar to 36.8% in 2015)
  • around one in five (18.7%) provided assistance with toileting activities (similar to 18.5% in 2015).

Primary carers, type of assistance provided with core activities(a), 2018
Graph shows that 74.0% of primary carers helped the main person they cared for with mobility tasks, 56.5% helped with self-care tasks and 54.1% helped with communication tasks.
Footnote(s): (a) Primary carer may have provided more than one type of assistance
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Non-core activities

Nearly all primary carers (98.9%) helped the main person they cared for with non-core activities:
  • 85.9% assisted with transport, with three quarters (75.9%) driving the person for whom they cared to places away from home
  • 83.2% provided cognitive and emotional support (an increase from 79.4% in 2015). Most often, this referred to coping with feelings or emotions (75.9%).

Primary carers, type of assistance provided with non-core activities(a), 2018
Graph shows the most common activities assistance was provided for were transport (85.9%), cognitive or emotional tasks (83.2%) and household chores (69.3%).
Footnote(s): (a) Primary carer may have provided more than one type of assistance
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Reasons for taking on a caring role

In 2018, the three most common reasons primary carers gave for taking on a caring role were:
  • a sense of family responsibility (70.1%) similar to 2015 (66.9%)
  • emotional obligation (46.6%) similar to 2015 (44.2%)
  • ability to provide better care than anybody else (46.4%) similar to 2015 (50.3%).

However, there was some variation, by age of care recipient, in terms of other common reasons given for taking on a caring role.

Among those who were primary carers to someone aged 65 years or over, over one-third (35.1%) said that no other friends or family were available to provide care compared with primary carers of recipients under 65 years of age (28.8%).

Among primary carers of those aged under 65 years, one-quarter (24.6%) said alternative care was too costly, compared with 17.2% of primary carers of people over 65 years.

Primary carers, reasons for taking on caring role, by age group of main recipient of care(a)(b), 2018
Graph shows the most common reason primary carers gave for taking on a caring role, regardless of the age of recipient, was a sense of family responsibility (69.9% of those aged 0-64 years, 70.6% of those aged 65 years and over).
Footnote(s):
(a) Proportions have been calculated using totals that exclude 'not stated' responses
(b) Respondents may have provided more than one reason for taking on caring role
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

The reasons for taking on a caring role also depended on the relationship a primary carer had to the main recipient of care:
  • three-quarters (78.6%) of those caring for a parent felt it was the responsibility of a family member to provide the care, compared with 71.5% of parents caring for a child and 66.8% of those caring for a spouse or partner
  • one-third (34.3%) of those caring for their child said they had no other choice, compared with 21.8% of those caring for a spouse or partner and 14.4% of those caring for their parent.

Primary carers, reasons for taking on caring role, by relationship to main recipient of care(a)(b), 2018
Graph shows that the reasons people take on the caring role varies depending on their relationship to the main recipient of care. People caring for a parent were most likely to feel it is the responsibility of a family member to provide the care
Footnote(s):
(a) Proportions have been calculated using totals that exclude 'not stated' responses
(b) Respondents may have provided more than one reason for taking on caring role
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Employment

In 2018, among carers aged 15-64 years (living in households):
  • seven in ten (70.9%) were in the labour force, similar to 2015 (70.8%)
  • primary carers were less likely to be in the labour force (58.8%) than other carers (76.6%) and non-carers (81.5%)
  • carers were less likely to be employed (66.6%) than non-carers (77.4%)
  • 71.8% of all male carers were employed, compared with 63.2% of all female carers.

Of primary carers of working age (15-64 years), 55.5% were employed; however, employment status varied with the hours of care per week that a primary carer was providing:
  • less than one-third (28.6%) of primary carers providing more than 40 hours of care a week to their main recipient were employed
  • in comparison, over half (52.8%) of those caring for the main recipient for less than 20 hours of week were employed.

Primary carers aged 15-64 years, time spent caring for main recipient of care, by labour force status of carer, 2018
Graph shows that primary carers were less likely to be employed the more hours of care they provided. 71.3% of Primary carers who spent less than 20 hours caring were employed, decreasing to 37.3% for those who spent 40 or more hours caring.
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Income of carers

Income level

Undertaking a caring role can affect a person’s capacity to work and earn an income. The following results relate to carers of working age (15-64 years) who were living in households and whose income was reported.

In 2018, the median gross personal income of all carers was $800 per week, increasing from $700 in 2015. In comparison the median gross income for non-carers was $997 (up from $900 in 2015).

Primary carers were more likely to live in households with a lower equivalised gross household income. Of primary carers who reported their income:
  • half (50.2%) lived in a household in the lowest two quintiles, twice that of non-carers (25.6%)
  • 13.2% lived in a household in the highest quintile, compared with 25.8% of non-carers.

Main source of income

In 2018, the main source of income for carers was:
  • wages or salary (56.1%, increasing from 53.0% in 2015)
  • government pension or allowance (24.1%).

Primary carers were more than twice as likely to receive a government pension or allowance (38.4%) than other carers (17.2%) and non-carers (9.2%)

Definitions:
Carers income data - data refers to carers aged 15-64 years, living in households. Excludes people whose household income was not known.
Equivalised gross household income - adjusts actual income to take into account the different needs of households of different size and composition. For more information see the Glossary.

Social and community participation of primary carers

In 2018, almost all (93.4%) primary carers had participated in one or more social activity away from home, similar to 2015 (94.2%). Three-quarters (76.6%) of primary carers had participated in social activities away from home without the person for whom they provided care, also similar to 2015 (76.0%).

The more hours of care provided, the less likely a primary carer was to participate in social activities away from home:
  • of those who provided 40 hours or more care per week, two-thirds (65.7%) participated in social activities away from home
  • of those who provided 20-39 hours of care, 76.1% participated in social activities away from home
  • of those who spent less than 20 hours caring per week, 87.6% participated in social activities away from home.

Primary carer participation in cultural or physical activities away from the home gradually decreased with age with:
  • 68.4% of primary carers aged 15-34 years participating in these activities
  • 57.1% of primary carers aged 65 years and over participating in these activities.

Definitions:
Participated in social activities away from home – asked of people in relation to the 3 months prior to the survey.
Participated in cultural or physical activity away from home – asked of people in relation to the 12 months prior to the survey.

Results relating to 2015 data can be found in the 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (ABS cat. no. 4430.0).