A key feature of population ageing in Europe and other more economically developed countries is the projected unprecedented rise in need for long-term care in the next two decades. There is, however, considerable uncertainty over the future supply of unpaid care for older people by their adult children. The future of family care is particularly important in countries planning to reform their long-term care systems, as is the case in England. This article makes new projections of the supply of intense unpaid care for parents aged 65 and over in England to 2032, and compares these projections with existing projections of demand for unpaid care by older people with disabilities from their children. The results show that the supply of unpaid care to older people with disabilities by their adult children in England is unlikely to keep pace with demand in future. By 2032, there is projected to be a shortfall of 160,000 care-givers in England. Demand for unpaid care will begin to exceed supply by 2017 and the unpaid ‘care gap’ will grow rapidly from then onwards. The article concludes by examining how far this unpaid ‘care gap’ is likely to be met by other sources of unpaid care or by developments in new technology and examines the implications of the findings for long-term care policy.
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