Older women: work and caregiving in conflict? A study of four countries

Soc Work Health Care. 2009;48(7):665-95. doi: 10.1080/00981380902921732.


Caregiving issues are important for industrialized societies that have been undergoing population aging. In this article we consider caregiving as a factor in the outlook for midlife and older women with respect to economic security and economic advancement. We use demographic and economic data from the United States, France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, in particular to document the importance of continued labor force participation for older women to make ends meet in an era of high household costs of physician services, prescription drugs, and other health-related services, and uncertainties about pensions. Data on employment status, industry, and occupation of economically active women in comparison with men indicate the extent of both gender gaps and progress affecting women's resources. The research of Dr. Myrna Lewis was a stimulus to the present exploration. Our conclusion discusses the implications for women's welfare of policy initiatives relating to care of elderly disabled, including improving services to family caregivers, assuring social financing of formal care, raising local provisions to a national standard, and supporting women's return to the labor force after a period of caregiving. In the context of population aging and longevity, such initiatives are responsive to women's need for earned income to attain retirement security.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Caregivers / economics
  • Caregivers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Financing, Government / organization & administration
  • Financing, Government / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Dynamics
  • Public Policy
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Women's Health*
  • Women, Working / statistics & numerical data*