Women are the main caregivers for the elderly in 80 percent of the cases, according to a study by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M). The average age of the caregiver is around 50.
The main conclusion of this research is that in spite of the noteworthy advances of recent decades, women continue to be the main caregivers for minors as well as for the elderly, disabled or the sick. In general, traditional family care is increasingly more unsustainable, chiefly because of women’s incorporation into the workplace and the decrease in the number of housewives, the increase of the aging population, and the increasing age of the caregivers themselves. The study in which these conclusions are specified with more data is published in Volume 28 of the Colección de Estudios Sociales de la Fundación "la Caixa" (Social Studies Collection of the La Caixa Foundation) under the title: "El cuidado de las personas. Un reto para el siglo XXI (Caregiving A 21st Century Challenge". Its authors, Constanza Tobío, Mª Victoria Gómez, Mª Silveria Agulló and Mª Teresa Martín Palomo, are four researchers from the UC3M Department of Political Science and Sociology who have published books and numerous articles in national and international journals in the area of gender studies, family relations, ageing and caregiving.
The study examines the current situation and the future challenges that caregiving presents in our country. The incorporation of women into the workplace and the significant increase in life expectancy are the two main factors which require a new caregiving model that goes beyond the traditional role of the family, and basically the woman, as caregiver. However, for that, infrastructures and professional support services are necessary, which currently are deficient, according to the authors of the report. "There is still a generation of women between 50 and 70 who are available for the care of the elderly and grandchildren, but they too are aging, and the new generations are for a large part, employed in the labor market, Contanza Tobío, UC3M Full Professor of Sociology pointed out.
The study integrates and interprets the data published by official government and international sources and the findings of the research relating to the caregiving area. One of the aspects that they highlight is that the family, above all, women, continue to be the main support for dependent persons in Spain (30%), just as it does in Greece or in Italy, juxtaposed with that of The Netherlands or Denmark (4%). In this sense, Spain is characterized by the homogeneity of the caregiver’s profile: a female in 83% of the cases, with an average age of 52 (20% are more than 65 and almost a third are over 60), married, with primary studies, without a paying job, and in 40% of the cases, the daughter of a dependent. Furthermore, in 77.2% of the cases it is permanent caregiver and 17% have more than one more dependent, minors or an elderly person, under their responsibility, acting as multi-caregiver. (Libro Blanco de la Dependencia, 2005).
This profile mainly corresponds to the last generation of woman who are not active in the labor market, which at present represents the main resource for the family of the new generation of workers. "Notwithstanding, this alternative is only a provisional solution”, the researchers explained, “because everything indicates that the first generation of working women will not repeat the caregiving role that the this last generation of housewives is carrying out today”. The study brings into focus the challenge of caregiving for our society, as well as “the construction of a model which combines gender equality with the construction of caregiving as a new social right, so that it generates a new framework in which the potential of all persons can be developed while being able to assume all of our limitations”, remarked another of the study’s authors, Professor Martín Palomo. “All of this”, she continued, “generates a series of questions such as: What is the caregiving model for our society and how will it be financed? In what way will it be made possible?”
The consolidation of family care is the result of the lack of institutional resources. Social service benefits for the elderly are insufficient and vary according to the autonomous regions. The indices regarding coverage for homecare services or residential care do not reach 5%, and in the day centers it is scarcely 0.8%. In addition to the lack of resources for care, we can add the traditional tendency of family care. All of this leads the economic aid provided for in the Ley de Dependencia for families to be 51% of benefits - aid which should be an exception in cases where the public services network is not enough. "For the first time in history it can be said, that regarding the Ley de Autonomía Personal (The Law of Personal Autonomy) –better known as the Ley de Dependencia (Law of Dependency) - that in the area of social policy a problem has been detected and the means have been defined which are necessary to deal with that problem before it becomes overwhelming," Constanza Tobío stated. "However, the road is not an easy one, but it is one that has to be taken despite the foreseen and unforeseen difficulties along the way”, she concluded.