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To what extent longer working lives might reduce the amount of informal care received by frail elderly people?

2018 Conference Presentation

Informal care EU

11 September 2018

To what extent longer working lives might reduce the amount of informal care received by frail elderly people?

Julien Bergeot, Universite de Cergy Pontoise, France

Roméo Fontaine, Institut National d'Etudes Démographiques
Benoît Rapoport, Université Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne


Background: To maintain the sustainability of public pension systems, many European countries have engaged different reforms like increasing the legal pensionable age or the number of years of contribution needed to receive a pension. These reforms have resulted in longer working lives since the average retirement age has increased in the EU28, as the participation of seniors aged 55-64. In parallel, population aging is likely to increase the demand for long-term care (LTC). To enable frail elderly people to live at home without excessively increasing public expenditures LTC, most EU Member States more or less explicitly encourage family members to provide all or a part of their elderly care. Family support has thus become an essential resource in the production of LTC. For example, in France, we estimate a number of 4.3 million of informal caregivers who are mostly family members, 80% of whom are children and spouses, and are on average 58 years old.

Objectives In this context, our communication raises the question of the compatibility between a policy aimed at extending the working lives of seniors and a policy promoting informal care to elderly. To what extent longer working lives might reduce the amount of informal care received by frail elderly people?
Previous articles that have explored the relationship between both activities have considered caregiving to an elderly as a determinant of the position in the labor market. Our approach is different from the traditional one adopted in the literature and aims at considering the reverse pathway of causation: to what extent caregiving is determined by the position on the labor market?
Methods: We take advantage of the differences in the legal pensionable age between European countries to study the causal effect of the retirement status on the propensity to provide informal care. This method to instrument the retirement status has been used in the literature that identify the effect of retirement on health.

We consider different binary outcomes to define informal care provision to a parent to take into account of the care intensity and the heterogeneity in the trade-off among the different care tasks. We thus estimate the effect of retirement on the probability to provide: i) daily care and ii) daily or weekly care, iii) personal care, iv) a practical help and v) help with paperwork. We rely on data from 6th wave of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). It gathers all the information we need: on the health (of the respondent and his or her parents), socioeconomic status (occupational status, education, income), family support (assistance to a relative).

Results: We estimate separately the model for men and women and we do not find any effect of retirement on informal care provision for women. For men, we find a positive and significant correlation between retirement and personal care (OLS), but this no more significant in the 2SLS model.

Conclusion: Labor market participation does not appear to be a determinant of propensity to help as important as one might think.