Families, care and work: changes and challenges

01 February 2009

Andreas Hoff

Commissioned Review: Generations and Life Course - the impact of demographic challenges on education 2010-2050 The ‘Beyond Current Horizons - technology, children, schools and families’ project for the Department of Children, Schools and Families.

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British society is ageing, with people aged 80 years and over being the most rapidly growing age group. Between 1981 and 2007 their numbers nearly doubled (1.57 million to 2.75 million), representing 4.5% of the total population (ONS, 2008a). It is members of this age group who are most likely to need care and assistance. Population ageing challenges the existing modes of care provision – by the family, by the welfare state, by commercial providers, and by the voluntary sector. At a time of growing need for caregivers, fertility is declining/stagnating, resulting in a smaller pool of potential family caregivers, as well as the emergence of a smaller and ageing workforce over the years to come. Equally important in contributing to this development is the fact that most women now pursue their own careers, while men continue to pursue theirs. The commercial and the public care industry are also affected by the shortage in caregivers and are increasingly reliant on migrant care workers imported from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. The voluntary sector may find it difficult to recruit enough volunteers to provide support to a growing number of older people. In short, all societal sectors providing care and assistance to older people find themselves overstretched at times of greater need for resources due to the sheer numbers of care recipients anticipated over the coming decades. It will be our generations? responsibility to make sure that they don?t get overwhelmed by future demand. We will have to find new solutions for providing care to maintain the fabric of our societies, a communal sense of intergenerational solidarity.