In 2009, the Commission examined the gender gap in retirement savings in the report, Accumulating poverty? Women’s experiences of inequality over the lifecycle. The report identified three strategies to redress women’s disadvantage in the current retirement income system including recognising and rewarding unpaid caring work in the retirement income system.
This research aims to expand on the findings made in the Accumulating poverty? report by:
- examining the nature of unpaid caring work in Australia and the barriers it creates for women’s equal participation in the workforce;
- identifying and analysing the different models and measures of valuing unpaid work and assessing the possible impact of such measures on the gender gap in retirement savings;
- and identifying and assesses the contemporary mechanisms in the workplace that support caring work.
The research examined models and mechanisms used to valued unpaid care in 24 countries. Based on the research the report identified a number of potential reform options for recognising and valuing unpaid caring work.
The report proposes a combination of mechanisms for adoption in Australia, including:
- Strengthening legislation to recognise discrimination based on family responsibilities including caring. Introducing mechanisms like carer assessments to determine a carer’s support needs and carer cards for accessing services and entitlements which would allow unpaid carers to participate in society on a more equal footing.
- Ensuring that unpaid carers have the right to request flexible work arrangements and that employers are obligated to reasonably accommodate their requests.
- Ensuring that income support reflects the variable costs of providing care and does not penalise unpaid carers for engaging in education and training or participating in the workforce.
- Expanding and strengthening leave provisions for all unpaid carers to ensure that they can maintain their attachment to the workforce while also undertaking their care responsibilities.
- Properly resourcing and coordinating services for unpaid carers across jurisdictions and care sectors to ensure that unpaid carers and those they care for receive the benefits of these services.
- Introducing workplace initiatives and changes to workplace culture to support unpaid carers undertake their work and care responsibilities.
- Reforming the current system of retirement income and savings, including the age pension and superannuation that is tied to paid work, to account for the inequity of retirement incomes and savings that leaves many women in poverty in older age, especially women who are or have been unpaid carers.