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Combining work and family life: the pension penalty of caring


This paper uses work and caring history information from the British Family and Working Lives Survey (1994/5) to examine the provision of family care and its impact upon the employment and the subsequent state and private pension entitlement among mid-life men and women. Combining paid employment with care-giving was not an option for a significant minority of women with caring responsibilities in mid-life. One-in-five mid-life women who have ever had caring responsibilities reported that, upon starting caring, they stopped work altogether, and another one-in-five reported that they worked fewer hours, earned less money or could only work restricted hours. Fewer men and women who stopped work as a result of caring were members of an occupational pension scheme than other groups; and they had accumulated fewer years of contributions than their counterparts who continued working, with direct implications for their level of pension income in later life. The extension of employers' schemes to help workers balance paid work and family responsibilities would facilitate more carers remaining in the labour market, as would an explicit carers' dimension within the new ‘Working Tax Credit’. Consideration should also be given to extending credits for second tier pensions to working carers who provide care for over 16 hours a week and who earn below the lower earnings limit. This will ensure that carers who juggle low paid work and care are not penalised for working, and that their unpaid contribution to society is recognised.

Corresponding author
Maria Evandrou, Institute of Gerontology, King's College London, Franklin-Wilkins Building, Waterloo Bridge Wing, Waterloo Road, London SE1 9NN Email:
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Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
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