A daughter, a wife, a mother and a career woman. In a female’s lifetime, we assume many roles, and often they revolve around caring for others and our loved ones.
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), in 2016, 78% of working age women (25-55) were not working because of family responsibilities, independent of their educational qualifications. In short, it means that over 260,000 of our females are outside the labour force, for this reason, dwarfing the number of men (under 10,000).
The Hidden Costs of Caregiving
Being a family caregiver comes with its own set of challenges. This is especially so for females who dedicate their lives to become full-time family caregivers, caring for their children or a loved one who is ill.
Caregiving demands the commitment of the carer, in the form of long hours or responsiveness to emergencies. Full-time employment is almost an impossibility. Most female caregivers leave the workforce early, giving up the chance to further their careers and leaving them vulnerable financially.
To afford out-of-pocket costs of caregiving, they rely mostly on spousal and family support. Forgone earnings coupled with saving shortfall for retirement paint a bleak outlook on their future. Female caregivers also face challenges when they return to the job market. Being older and with less relevant skill sets, they are a displaced group with difficulties finding a full-time job.
The toll of caregiving is not just financial. Mental health of female caregiver suffers, with guilt, stress, depression and burnout becoming common. Self-care takes a backseat when they focused on ensuring the well-being of others, consumed by caregiving.
Social life decimates to near nothing. With no time to maintain relationships and social networks, female caregivers are stranded with little to no support, perpetuating the cycle of poor mental well-being and caregiving burnout.
Supporting Female Caregivers
With an ageing population and a decreasing old-age support ratio, we need to recognise that it is not just the female caregiver’s responsibility but a nation’s responsibility to address this gender disparity in care and to take action to lend more support to this invisible group.
Companies can start by enabling female caregivers with viable, flexible work arrangements. Flexibility can mean part-time work, different working hours or work from different locations.
At Homage, 80% of our local Care Professionals (CarePro) community are female. Family commitments may often prevent our caregivers from having a full-time job. Our Earn-As-You-Care employment model offers flexibility and empowers female caregivers to remain in the workforce, regardless of family responsibilities.
A lack of long-term commitment is no longer penalised, and this job is a win-win for their personal caregiving responsibilities and income earning.
Government & Community
The caregiving journey is never alone. Connecting female caregivers to more support will help them realise this. More social and financial support are now available and we need to make caregivers aware of them.
Home Caregiving Grant (HCG), a subsidy rolling out end 2019, aims to lighten the financial load of caregiving and is part of the care-related grants. Apart from Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), community-initiated groups and forums are increasingly leading efforts to build a social support network for caregivers. Caregivers Alliance (CAL), Lien Foundation and Project We Forgot are some of these groups connecting family caregivers and facilitating the exchange of such experiences and tips.
Professional home care providers is another option for caregivers’ respite. These home care services can be requested easily through call or even a mobile app, yet caregivers are not in the know. 1 in 5 who reached out to Homage to inquire about our home care services are often unclear on how to go about getting help. Caregivers need support in navigating and finding a holistic solution, to balance caregiving responsibilities and other commitments (career, familial and self).
Finally, we, as family and friends, can also play our part to support female caregivers. By lending them our listening ear, involving them in family activities or even volunteering to help with the care; you can make a real difference to their lives.
- Ageing. Retrieved 19 January 2020, from https://www.population.sg/ageing
- Chia, L. (2017). A candle burning at both ends: Spotting the signs of caregiver burnout. Retrieved 19 January 2020, from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/a-candle-burning-at-both-ends-spotting-the-signs-of-caregiver-9058576
- Chong, N. (2017). Caregiver allowance will benefit society without creating fiscal burden. Retrieved 19 January 2020, from https://www.todayonline.com/voices/caregiver-allowance-will-benefit-society-without-creating-fiscal-burden
- Hingorani, S. (2018). Commentary: The unequal, unnoticed life of a female worker. Retrieved 19 January 2020, from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/gender-equality-equal-pay-singapore-work-cpf-life-savings-10877958
- Kwan, J. (2019). Move away from individual to collective caregiving. Retrieved 19 January 2020, from https://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/move-away-from-individual-to-collective-caregiving
- Lim, Y. (2017). Guilt, burnout and sacrifice: Dementia patients’ caregivers ask ‘have I done enough?’. Retrieved 19 January 2020, from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/guilt-burnout-and-sacrifice-dementia-patients-caregivers-ask-8976898