Australia's entrenched culture of dependence on carers comes with an almost incalculable saving to the national coffers. Before beginning to crunch numbers, I'd like to honour and validate the recipients of unpaid care in Australia, those who suffer illness or have a disability and apologise for the complete erasure of those very people when we talk of carer contribution and carer cost and dependence. It would be remiss and reprehensible to detail how expensive it is to provide unpaid care for you and never once affirm that you are the equal of anyone in Australia, no matter your care requirements.
Here is an oversimplified report on the financial savings represented by carers. Carers cost $6 billion in payments. Their replacement value is $60.8 billion, thus making replacing them more than nine times more expensive than paying them. Our focus group consists of 11,000 young carers identified by actuarial evidence of being at risk of having the nation benefit from their unpaid and unrecognised labour. Those 11,000 young carers, estimated to receive $500,000 each in payments therefore represent $4.5 million dollars in saving each. As a group those 11,000 young carers will save taxpayers $49.5 billion dollars over their lifetimes.
Let's look at Lisa, as seen in the oversimplified cartoon on this website http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-20/government-new-welfare-investment-approach-risk-groups-targeted/7859432
Lisa enters the welfare system at 16, on student payments, while she finishes her education. Her education finishes and she is eligible for Youth Allowance while looking for a job. At 20, she becomes carer to her younger brother and cares for him for twelve years, when he goes into formal support services. Wow, Lisa is now 32 and was replaced by formal support services. Let's be clear about this. Lisa has been providing care that can only be replaced by formal support services, she's been doing a job single handled that requires formal support services without her. How good is she?
She gets a part time job and still receives some carer allowances. That means she's still participating in his care, even with all the formal support services. Lisa seems to be a pretty excellent Australian, and she works until she's 65, which is 33 years, when she becomes carer for another family member until retirement age of 67, when she gets the aged pension until she dies. Lisa, that most excellent of Australians, spent 14 years of her life, providing full time care for a person who needed her. She was paid approximately $322,000 in benefits during that period for a saving to the taxpayer of $2.898 million.
Lisa, we can't thank you enough. You're an excellent example of a sterling Australian and a pretty lousy example of entrenched welfare dependence, considering you worked for 33 years. In fact, I don't even know why anyone would worry about 14 years of welfare dependency for a saving $2.898 million. We could have paid Lisa $898000 in benefits and still saved $2 million (and Lisa and her brother would have had better food and accommodation and she might've been able to care for him longer, and that would've saved more money).
We should pay carers like Lisa a wage and recognise and validate what they do as work, thus beginning to break the cycle of dependence on unpaid care. If we are to beak the cycle of our nation being dependent on unpaid and unrecognised work, done predominantly by women, we should consider this group as a trial for a basic income. We cannot continue to expect so much while contributing so little.
This report was compiled at absolutely no cost to anyone.