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International Women’s Day: The incredible role of women in care

The care system, like elsewhere, is full of incredible women doing truly remarkable things. In our hospitals, our care facilities and the homes of the most vulnerable in our society, women are the backbone of the system. Providing companionship, compassion and practical support to people in need.

This International Women’s day, we look at the contribution of women in care – here and around the world. 

Worldwide, women are up to ten times more likely to do unpaid care work compared to men 

People need to do unpaid care before they’ve considered formal care options or when the local health and social care system is unable to provide the right level of support. The vast majority of those people are women. Oxfam suggests that globally around 57 million women are filling the gaps.

Women and girls are putting in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work every day

Informal care can be anything from helping someone get up and about to making sure they’ve taken their medication. Each day the role of women in unpaid care is truly staggering. Hundreds of millions of people rely on their dedication and love to live a good quality of life.

Globally, every year Oxfam estimate this work contributes up to $10 trillion to the global economy

That’s 12% of the size of the world’s annual economic output. It’s a mind-blowing contribution that’s provided under the surface, out of sight. But what’s more important than making sure, in societies around the world, people have the support they need to live their most independent and dignified life?

In the UK, 58% of unpaid carers are women 

That’s nearly 3.4 million women doing something truly selfless – supporting their mum, dad, brother, sister, or another loved one. One in four women aged 50-64 take time off work to care for older or disabled loved ones.

Women make up the majority of both paid and unpaid carers.

20% of all women end their careers early to care for an elderly loved one 

Research by Aviva shows a huge one in five women have to leave their careers early, and over four times more likely to have reduced working hours due to caring responsibilities. Much of the time, they’re ‘sandwich carers’ – looking after younger and older generations at the same time.  

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Are you an unpaid carer?

Carer’s Allowance is a benefit for informal carers, who look after someone for more than 35 hours per week. Caring for someone can include physical, domestic, practical and even emotional support. 

Women make up 89% of nurses in the UK according to the Royal College of Nursing.

Carers UK estimate the unpaid care work of women contributes £77bn to the UK economy 

Carers UK has calculated that the economic value of the unpaid care provided by women in the UK is estimated to be a massive £77 billion per year. That’s nearly double what we spend on our armed forces. 

68% of sandwich carers in the UK are women

There are 1.25 million sandwich carers in the UK – people caring for an older relative as well as bringing up the younger generation at the same time – and the majority are women. The level of love and dedication this shows is remarkable, as is the scale of the number of women in this situation. That’s four times the number of nurses in the NHS.

Women now make up the majority of trainee doctors.

A massive 80% of all social care jobs are performed by women 

When it comes to carer roles, the figure is even higher. The King’s Fund estimates that up to 95% of those in non-medical direct care and support providing jobs are women, jobs too often wrongly labelled “unskilled”. These are jobs that keep people safe and allow people to make the most of their life.

Let’s celebrate the role of women in care

Around the world, women are the glue that holds the social care system together. COVID-19 has highlighted the vital importance of their work and the super-human nature of their commitment.

On the first International Women’s Day since the pandemic really reached our shores, let’s take the day to celebrate this unbelievable contribution, reflect on the inequalities that exist and start a conversation about how to address them.

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