Female workers aged over 50 are twice as likely as their male counterparts to be unpaid carers, a study by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows.
The research found that almost one in four (24%) older female workers care for a loved one, compared with just over one in eight (13%) of older male workers.
Nearly three in five carers in England and Wales are aged 50 years and over, and one in five people aged 50 to 69 years are informal carers – the most common age group for having caring responsibilities.
ONS used data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to highlight how working and caring responsibilities are being taken on by older people.
It found men who care are less likely to work than men who do not provide care, while women are equally likely to be in work whether caring or not.
However, almost two-thirds (62%) of older women in employment work part-time, compared with less than one-quarter (24%) of older men, which may explain why men are less likely to work if they are carers.
There is also a difference in the people who men and women are providing care for, with men aged 52 to 69 more likely than their female counterparts to care for a spouse or child, while women are more likely to care for a parent or grandchild.
Women are also more likely to juggle multiple caring roles. Almost one-third (29%) of female carers provide care for multiple types of people, which may include people outside their close family, compared with one in five men.
Responding to the report, Catherine Foot, director of Evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said the figures reinforce how many people approaching later life must balance work with caring unpaid for partners and older relatives.
“Caring for a parent is now the most prevalent type of caring and, with people living longer, it is likely to become more common in future. More and more people will face the difficult reality of managing the everyday pressures of life while at the same time caring for a loved one,” she said.
“Caring responsibilities can significantly impact people’s ability to keep working. By the year people reach State Pension Age, nearly half of all people have already stopped working, and caring is a major contributor to this. We need to make flexible working the default option for everyone, legislate to introduce flexible, paid carers’ leave, and give carers a Right to Return to the same job.”
The report comes less than a week after Age UK announced that women are bearing the brunt of the government’s inaction on social care, with ‘sandwich carers’ among the worst hit.