The care sector is highly significant to Australia, providing nearly 20% of all paid employment, and worth an estimated $762.5 billion in 2009-10 ($112.4 billion paid care and $650.1 billion imputed value of unpaid care).

Care work is highly significant to the Australian society and economy.

Care work affects all aspects of the community, and thus has a significant influence upon the social and economic wellbeing of a nation. The care sector must be identified as a discrete part of the Australian economy because the overall wellbeing of a nation is reflected in its human capital infrastructure.

Both paid and unpaid carers work in the areas of education and health and provide assistance to community members suffering from mental illness, chronic ill-health, terminal illness, disability and the frail aged. The volunteer sector is a key component of the care economy. The labour involved in providing this assistance is known as ‘care work’. Although there is vast literature on different aspects of the Australian care economy, until recently there has been no comprehensive mapping of it. Given the complexity of care work and its profound social and economic implications for a nation, it is crucial that this sector is defined and valued as a distinct segment of economic activity.

In June 2010, economic Security4Women (eS4W), a national women’s alliance under the Australian Government’s Office for Women, prepared Scoping the Australian Care Economy - A Gender Equity Perspective (Adams, 2010). This report recognised the importance of the care economy and made a series of recommendations to address some of the issues facing the sector. Adams' report highlighted that the lack of "comprehensive mapping" of the Australian care economy (which encompasses both microeconomic and macroeconomic factors) was a limitation.

In order to rectify this lack, the Counting on Care work project was designed to replicate similar work completed in Massachusetts and, for the first time, quantify the Australian care economy. This report highlights the highly gendered nature of the care sector in the implications this has for women and the nation's economy.

To further the scope of its report, eS4W engaged AECgroup to: •    Examine the three intersecting spheres of paid care work, unpaid care work and government investment in the care sector;

•    Examine the labour and resources devoted to the daily care of Australians, in particular:

  • Children and those who are elderly or disabled;
  • Provision of Kindergarten to year 12 education;and
  • Provision of health care to both well and sick citizens regardless of age;

•    Develop categories, concepts and measures of care work to enable international comparisons; and
•    Include policy recommendations in the final report for future advocacy work.

This project differs from those already undertaken in Australia due to the inclusion of the formal care sector, the government investment in the care sector and the inclusion of informal care of Australians who are neither disabled nor ill.


eS4W’s “Counting on the Care Economy” report was launched on the 19th September in Canberra. For a copy of the report and eS4W Policy Paper click the links below.

AEC Report – Counting on Care Work in Australia Final Report (43)

eS4WPolicyPaperCareEconomy2012 (21)


Hoenig, S.A., and Page. A.R.E., (2012). Counting on Care Work in Australia. Report prepared by AECgroup Limited for economic Security4Women, Australia.


Image: McBeth / flickr

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