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Choice to care is choice to be poor, latest data shows Post Cover Image

Women are sacrificing hundreds of thousands of dollars by giving unpaid care for whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand, the latest report by the Carers Alliance shows.

‘The economic contribution and sacrifices of unpaid family, whānau and aiga carers in New Zealand’ report was prepared by the alliance with Alzheimers NZ, Carers NZ, IHC and the Ministry of Social Development.

The report estimates there are 432,000 carers in the country (although the true number could be up to 50 percent higher) and two-thirds of carers are women.

Each year, The annual economic contribution of caring in Aotearoa New Zealand is $17.6 billion or 5.4 per cent of GDP.

On average, household incomes with carers are 10 percent less than those of non-carers.

“A choice to be a carer for your whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand is, unfortunately, a choice to be poor,” says Alzheimers NZ Chief Executive Catherine Hall.

“We already know carers are undervalued. The latest data confirms carers, who are mostly women, are much worse off financially than if they weren’t caring for whānau – that’s the reality.

“As the number of people living with dementia mate wareware increases, we need the right support in place to ensure people and whānau live well.”

The financial impact of caring is different for each whānau but there are some examples highlighted in the report.

A woman working 30 hours each week over 30 years will lose $888,000 in gross earnings, while a woman who retires at 45 after working full time may lose $1.6 million in gross earnings.

In a different scenario, a young woman who cares for an elderly relative and works part time for nine years until they’re 35, may have missed out on $419,000 in gross earnings.

These figures increase when employee, employer and government contributions to Kiwisaver are taken into account.

The report recommends more funding for carers and support services, more investment in respite options and further support for carers who are employed (eg paid leave options or tax credits).

“People and whānau living with dementia mate wareware deserve an adequate level of support from Government. This report only reinforces that notion,” says Ms Hall.

Read the full report or see the infographic on the Alzheimers NZ website.

Key statistics

  • Carers lose an estimated $1.536 million in employment revenue per annum
  • Based on the 2018 Census: non-carers had a median household income of $97,400 compared with $87,100 for carers – an income penalty for caring of 10.6 percent
  • Two-thirds of lost income is by female carers
  • 64 percent of whānau carers provided more care during Covid-19
  • 85,000 carers are aged 15-34