On older women, again we were simply responding to a trend that is alreadya part of family life for many. A growing
of womenare caring for their children and / or grandchildren as well as an elderlyparent. There has been a sharp rise in grandparents and particularlygrandmothers providing childcare. Half of new mothers depend on informalcare provided by grandparents. Three quarters of grandparents care fortheir grandchildren, and more than one in four (28 per cent) of those withgrandchildren under 16 also have a parent who is still alive.Grandmothers who care for their grandchildren are more likely to beyounger, in work, and belong to lower-income households. Two thirds (66per cent) of grandmothers who provide between 10
19 hours of childcare aweek earn less than £25,999, compared to the 25 per cent who earn£44,000 or more. This difference in part can be attributed to the high cost of childcare.
Older women of this ‘sandwich generation’ are more likely than men to have
given up work as a result of their greater caring responsibilities; this disparity isparticularly acute for older women on low incomes. By the age of 59, there is a50/50 chance that women will have been a carer for a sustained period of time. Research shows that 17 per cent of unemployed women gave up work tocare, compared to just 1 per cent of men. And although the labour marketposition of older women has greatly improved over the last few decades with adramatic rise in employment, unemployment and in particular long-termunemployment is worryingly high.
Both these trends
of increased breadwinners and a swelling of the sandwichgeneration
–don’t seem likely to reverse
in the short term given widerdemographic, social and economic trends. For many families this researchsimply reflects their daily lives. Caring for family members
children, parentsand extended family
is something that many want to do and brings much joyand satisfaction. But there are also real challenges that include increasedstress, financial strain and unstable employment. The difficult questionemerges of how best to support families so that they have choice and stability,as well as the flexibility to respond to individual circumstances.Caring is still a gender issue. Despite increased breadwinning, women are over-represented as carers which contributes to their under-representation in