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Partner care: on the way to gender equality in Spain and Sweden

2016 Conference Presentation

EquityInformal care SpainSweden

5 September 2016

Partner care: on the way to gender equality in Spain and Sweden

Gerdt Sundstrom, Institute of Gerontology, Jönköping, Sweden


Objective: In many countries marriages last longer and older persons increasingly live just with their partner, rather than in extended households. Among married/partnered older persons living just as a couple is now the most common household type in Spain and prevailing altogether for older Swedes. We study the consequences for caregiving among older men and women in culturally distinct Spain and Sweden.

Data and methods: We use secondary analysis of large national surveys.

Results: Equally many older men and women in couple only households provide care for their partner in both Spain and Sweden, and men and women seem to provide equal ‘volumes’ of care, assessed as hours of caregiving. Our estimates also suggest that a large fraction of all informal care – outsizing public care – is provided by older persons. Patterns of caregiving change in ‘familistic’ Spain, challenging stereotypes about ‘typical’ carers being primarily young and female. Swedish carers are older and well on the way to gender equality.

Implications for policy: Support programs may have to consider the specific needs of partner carers who are often old themselves, although for many carers the best support are good ‘ordinary’ services, for the person they care for.