There are now 2.7 million unpaid carers in Australia, which means that about one in nine Australians, or 11.9 per cent of the population, has an unpaid caring role, according to new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The ABS data showed that while the total number of primary carers, those who provide the majority of assistance with activities of daily living, remained at around 770,000, the amount of time spent providing assistance had increased.
According to the 2012 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) carers were spending more hours on average each week providing unpaid assistance, while the number of primary carers who provided on average 40 hours or more of unpaid care each week increased from about 35 per cent in 2009 to 40 per cent in 2012.
Responding to the data, Carers Australia chief executive officer Ara Cresswell said it was imperative that Australia invested in unpaid carers. “Provision of carer supports is an investment not just in carers themselves but in the disability, health, aged care sectors, carer workforce participation and the community as a whole,” she said.
The SDAC data also highlighted the economic disadvantage faced by carers. Almost two thirds of primary carers were in the lowest household income brackets compared with 36 per cent of non-carers. Primary carers were also significantly under-represented in the workforce at 42 per cent, compared to 69 per cent of non-carers.
“With an ageing population, more Australians will continue to take on caring roles in the future. Supporting carers to combine work and care is therefore essential,” said Ms Cresswell.
The data also showed that females made up the majority of carers, representing 70 per cent of primary carers and 56 per cent of carers overall. Carers were most likely to be aged between 55 to 64 years. The number of young carers aged up to 25 years remained at around 305,000. Of these, 75,000 were aged less than 15.
The 2012 SDAC also found that:
- Around half of Australia’s older population, some 1.7 million Australians, had a disability.
- 90 per cent of older people lived in a private dwelling and, of those, 71 per cent lived with others.
- 87 per cent of older Australians reported having a long-term health condition.
- One third of older people reported needing assistance with personal activities, most commonly healthcare (25 per cent) and mobility tasks (18 per cent).
- A government pension or allowance was the main source of income for two million older Australians (65 per cent).
Living longer, officially
Meanwhile another report from the ABS, Deaths, Australia 2012, released last week, has documented the highest life expectancy estimates ever recorded in Australia, reflecting record low death rates.
Director of Demography at the ABS, Bjorn Jarvis, said a boy born today could expect to live 79.9 years, while a girl could expect to live 84.3 years. “For those approaching retirement age, say 65 years, males could expect to live a further 19 years and females a further 22 years.”
He said Australia’s life expectancy at birth continued to be amongst the highest in the world. “The combined male and female figure of 82 years, while a little lower than Japan and Hong Kong, is higher than Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA,” said Mr Jarvis.
The Australian Capital Territory had the highest life expectancy at birth with 81.2 years for males and 85.1 years for females. The lowest life expectancy was in the Northern Territory, at 74.7 years for males and 80 years for females.
While there were 147,098 deaths registered in Australia, the standardised death rate fell to 5.5 deaths per 1,000 people, the lowest rate ever recorded in Australia. In 2002, the death rate was 6.8 deaths.