Who is afraid of low fertility? Implications for support in later life

Karen F. Glaser, King's College London

Concerns regarding the costs of population ageing have led to substantial changes in long-term care policies (defined as both institutional and home care) in many industrialised societies. Reforms have largely sought to reduce institutional care (e.g. residential home provision) and access to home care (e.g. home help) by targeting services to the most disabled older individuals (OECD 2005). The implicit assumption underlying these policy changes is that the family will be willing and able to take on the care of frail older relatives. However, at the same time, the declines in fertility that have accompanied population ageing are believed to contribute to declines in the availability of children to provide care. Rosenthal (2000) points out that such demographic change often promote “doomsday” thinking about the future of informal caregiving, focusing on the shrinking pool of adult children to be caregivers, and the growing number of older parents that might need care. Thus, understanding the impact of family structure on the use of informal support in later life is critical policy issue. Employing data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and the 2003 Italian Indagine Multiscopo Famiglie e Soggetti Sociali (IMF) our aim is to examine, among those aged 60 and over who have children, the relationship between number of family structure (i.e. children and siblings) and two types of public/private social care: living in communal establishments and receiving public/private home care. Our findings show, that in England, as in Italy, living in a communal establishment or having a full time carer is largely driven by need (e.g. health and age) and not by number of children (or siblings).

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Presented in Session 60: Challenging persistent beliefs in ageing societies

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