The care economy includes activities such as providing unpaid child care; unpaid assistance for someone with a disability, a long-term illness, or problems related to old age; undertaking domestic work; and volunteering. Information on the level and type of unpaid work undertaken by all Australians was first collected in the 2006 Census. The questions were included again in the 2011 Census.
The benefits from the care sector to the Australian economy is significant. From a financial perspective, it represents savings in expenditure that otherwise would need to be allocated. For those receiving care, there are tremendous benefits to individuals and their families. While there are benefits from the carer's perspective, there are also likely to be substantial economic and non-economic costs that are often hidden. Previous research has shown that carers have lower financial security and a greater likelihood of having lower mental health. Furthermore, Indigenous carers currently providing informal care represent a potential care workforce that should be harnessed.
Analysis of data from the 2011 Census suggests that a relatively high proportion of caring activities are being undertaken in regional and remote parts of the country. Indigenous Australians in outer regional and remote areas are more likely to be carers than those in other parts of the country. This may reflect the lack of availability of formal care or assistance in these areas, or perhaps a preference for more informal channels of care in those locations. Within the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population, the burden of undertaking caring activities tends to fall predominately on females.