Authors: Rong Zhu1,2, Ilke Onur1

College of Business, Government and Law, Flinders University, Australia
2 Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), Germany


A recent study conducted by researchers at Flinders University sheds light on the complex interplay between retirement decisions and informal caregiving among older Australians. As the Australian Age Pension eligibility age increases, a growing number of seniors are opting to remain in the workforce. Interestingly, this shift remains the same commitment to providing informal care within their homes or in the community, challenging prevailing assumptions about the interdependence of work and caregiving roles in later life.
The ageing population is expected to increase the demand for informal care. As older individuals often provide a significant amount of informal care, raising the retirement age could potentially threaten the availability of informal carers. However, in order to meet their caregiving needs, people may reduce the time they allocate for other activities so that they can work more in the labour market. As a result, their informal caregiving may remain the same. It is thus unclear whether postponed retirement reduces unpaid caregiving activities or not.
Using nationally representative data from the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, the researchers analysed the impact of retirement on older people’s informal caregiving. Their findings showed that while older people postpone their retirement decisions when their eligibility age for the Australian Age Pension rises, delayed retirement does not causally affect co-residential or extra-residential informal care provided by older Australians. The time that elderly individuals contribute to unpaid care is insensitive to their retirement behaviour. This result is consistent across all types of care recipients (spouse/partner, parent(s), parent(s))-in-law, adult child, young child, other relative, and others) and the gender of the informal caregiver.
Moreover, the researchers investigated how elderly Australians navigate the delicate balance between work and caregiving, particularly in light of pension reforms encouraging longer workforce involvement. The findings indicate that seniors adeptly manage this balancing act by reallocating time from other non-market activities—such as household chores, hobbies, and physical activities —to maintain their caregiving commitments. This adaptability underscores the resilience and dedication of older caregivers, who continue to provide vital support across various care domains, regardless of their employment status. Overall, this research not only highlights the importance of informal caregiving to older Australians but also offers valuable insights for policymakers and society as we strive to achieve improvements in labour force participation and caregiving in an ageing population.

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