Republic of Ireland news

Older Irish women leaving workforce to care for family members, report finds

 Caring responsibilities for spouses, grandchildren or others can lead to early exits among older workers, a report has found
Aoife Moore, Press Association

Older Irish women are leaving the workforce early to care for their grandchildren or parents, a new report has found.

The ESRI report The Ageing Workforce In Ireland, Working Conditions, Health And Extending Working Lives, published on Tuesday, detailed how women are more likely to leave their careers and care for others.

"Relatives, predominantly grandmothers, provide a significant proportion of childcare in Ireland," the report said.

"Caring responsibilities for spouses, grandchildren or others can lead to early exits among older workers, especially if working conditions are incompatible with care responsibilities, often pushing older workers towards early exit.

"Similarly, a substantial proportion of care for older people or those with a disability in Ireland is provided informally by family members.

"These push factors are particularly relevant to the Irish case."

The findings come off the back of reports of eye-watering prices for childcare in the Republic of Ireland.

New figures show that some creches are now charging 1,000 euro per month per child.

Many opt, if possible, to have older relatives to look after children, usually mothers or aunts, in order to save money.

Although having a family member care for a relative seems the ideal outcome for the family practically, it can lead to issues around income when the caring responsibilities come to an end.

The report adds that financial supports for carers of older relatives or relatives with disabilities are often tied to carers limiting their level of employment, which can also lead to early retirement.

"Early exits for caring/family reasons are more common among women and among those in lower-skilled service or manual jobs," the report added.

"The short-term opportunity costs of caring may be lower for this group because of lower wages, however, this will have implications for the pension income of these workers in the longer term.

"We found that 7% of those leaving between the ages of 55 and 59 years left because of care responsibilities, and women were five times more likely to exit for this reason than men."

The report concluded that policies to subsidise or provide childcare and adult-care options to households are relevant to extending Irish people's working lives.

Access to flexible working options - such as part-time, reduced hours, leave schemes, flexibility in start and finishing times would be essential to allow older and younger workers to better balance their caring and work demands.

The research found that the general age composition of the labour force differs markedly by gender across Ireland.

In 2018, 19% of the male labour force were aged 55 years or over compared to 12% of the female labour force.

Participation rates for both men and women fall sharply among those aged 65 and over with only 18% of men and 7% of women are still active in the labour market.

Women aged over 65 work on average 24 hours per week, while women under 55 work on average 33 hours per week.

The report adds that the differences in men and women's paid working hours are likely to be linked to gender differences in care and unpaid work obligations.

Read more: Alone charity calls for increase in state pension

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