Generation Xers with caring responsibilities are hampered in their ability to save for their retirement and have poorer health than those who are not carers, according to research from the International Longevity Centre (ILC).
The research, examining the barriers to financial wellbeing of those born between 1965 and 1980, finds 16 per cent of Gen X carers are not confident they will be able to work for as long as needed as a result of their caring responsibilities.
Just 48 per cent of them are employed full-time, compared to 61 per cent of those in that age group without current or previous care responsibilities, and 29 per cent are not employed at all, compared to 22 per cent of Gen Xers with no care responsibilities.
The report found 56 per cent of Gen X carers are worried about their lifestyle in retirement. Two thirds – 67 per cent – would like to save more money but struggle to do so, with 56 per cent saying they simply can’t put any more away, while 24 per cent struggle due to insecure earnings and fluctuating outgoings.
Of those who cannot afford to save more, 25 per cent say their care responsibilities limit their ability to work, and 7 per cent are paying to support an unwell friend or relative which affects their ability to save.
But a third of Gen X carers are too overwhelmed and distracted by other priorities to even think about retirement plans, rising to 41 per cent of those who have multiple caring responsibilities, caring for both children and an adult.
More than half -51 per cent – of Gen X carers are in poor health themselves – compared to 34 per cent of non-carers.
Sophia Dimitriadis, research fellow at ILC and report author says: “While unpaid carers provide a huge service to our society and save the NHS over a hundred billion pounds each year – they are unfairly penalised for this. They disproportionately risk facing financial hardship in retirement – with 35 per cent of Gen X carers especially at risk – mainly due to the impact of caring responsibilities on their ability to work and save for retirement. But it doesn’t have to be this way – most carers want to work.
“Extending existing legislation around parental leave to offer ten days of statutory paid leave for carers could make a huge difference. The Covid-19 pandemic has also demonstrated that many more roles can be worked flexibly. This provides a significant opportunity to shift towards roles being ‘flexible by default’ – to enable more people to flex their work around their caring responsibilities. This could be a game changer; the number one change that employees say could make a difference to their ability to work longer is greater flexibility. As the demand for informal carers is expected to soar to meet the needs of our ageing population, policy makers will urgently need to support the needs of carers – including those that want to work.”
Andy Curran, CEO Savings & Retirement, UK & Europe at Phoenix Group, which sponsored the report, says: “It’s a travesty that carers should be penalised for looking after their loved ones, and something Phoenix is committed to fighting. Many Gen X carers are already facing significant barriers to saving and if their employment prospects are limited as a result of their caring responsibilities, this will compound the impact on their financial futures. With an estimated 600 people with caring responsibilities leaving the workforce each day2, it’s our duty to help ensure they can continue to earn an income wherever possible.
“Carers will play an ever more important role in our society as life expectancies increase and any one of us could have a caring commitment at some point in our working lives. It’s something all employers need to recognise. At Phoenix we have recently upped our paid Carers Leave provision to ten days to support our working carers, alongside an employee assistance programme, and an extremely active colleague Carers Network. Offering even greater flexibility and paid carers’ leave will enable employers to retain carers in their organisations while giving them the breathing space they need, and the right to look after loved ones without extra worries about their savings or their career.”