Older Workers and Caregiving in a Global Context: Methodological Challenges and Opportunities in Comparative Analysis

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Janet FAST, University of Alberta, Canada
Kate O'LOUGHLIN, The University of Sydney, Australia
Judith PHILLIPS, Swansea University, United Kingdom
Increased longevity and an extended life course are great achievements on the one hand, but bring with them significant challenges on the other. While healthy life expectancy also has increased, the fastest growth has been among persons 80+, a life stage at which there is a greater likelihood of the need for care. Sustainability of the family care sector, the primary source of care for those in need, has therefore become a “hot button” policy issue in developed countries. At the same time retirement trends have made sustainability of the paid labour force an equally high priority policy issue. Given that the majority of caregivers also are employed, and many are struggling to maintain employment alongside care responsibilities, finding mechanisms for supporting employed caregivers is increasingly urgent.

The volume of research on the experiences of employed carers has grown substantially in the last decade within countries, especially developed countries. So too have the range of work-care integration strategies adopted by both public and private sector stakeholders. Comparing experiences across countries with different social, economic and political contexts can help highlight strengths and weaknesses of existing domestic approaches to supporting employed caregivers and reveal alternate approaches for future consideration. This paper draws on the experiences of the authors in attempting to carry out cross-national comparative analyses of existing national survey data on caregiving and employment in three Commonwealth countries, as well as other contributions to a forthcoming special issue of Journal of Cross Cultural Gerontology, to identify key benefits, and methodological challenges, to conducting such comparative analyses. We conclude with recommendations for measures that will facilitate future comparative research on combining paid work and unpaid care work.