The review analysed 35 studies of unpaid caregivers and found that they are as likely as other people are to hold paid jobs outside the home. However, a caregiver who withdraws from the labour market could be putting his or her lifetime earning potential and retirement-savings opportunities at risk, while employers might be losing valuable workers. “Health care decision makers are looking at unpaid caregivers as a vast source of free labour that may ease the health care crisis. I think that perspective on solving the health system financing crunch is shortsighted,” said lead review author Meredith Lilly. The approach could jeopardize the broader economy and individual caregivers, she added. “A nation’s productivity and tax base to pay for social services is based on the number of workers who are available in the labour force,” she said.

Work and health researcher Pat Armstrong says there is little information about the full cost of unpaid caregiving. Armstrong is a professor of sociology and women’s studies at York University in Toronto. “Spending 10 hours providing care at home then going to work makes for a very long workday; it’s associated with higher rates of accidents and lower productivity,” she said. A true calculation of the cost of unpaid care giving has to weigh more than wages and pensions, she said.

“Somebody pays. We are starting to see that it’s a shared cost. In the question of payment, we need to include more than money, things like health. Ten years from now, what does that mean on the collective burden that society will have to bear? Someone’s got to pay for the care for the caregiver,” Armstrong said.; Source: Health Behavior News Service