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Unpaid care: an emerging human rights issue

Caring Fairly is a campaign focused on improving and realising the economic, social, and cultural rights (ESC rights) of unpaid carers in Australia.

ESC rights are vital to a fair, tolerant, and vibrant society. They include the right to adequate housing, education, and healthcare- some of the rights most valued by Australians.

ESC rights are set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Australia ratified this binding international human rights treaty more than 40 years ago. In doing so, Australia guaranteed that it would take active steps to advance several key human rights for all Australians, without discrimination of any kind. These include:

  • The right to work
  • The right to fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind
  • The right to education

Unpaid carers in Australia have not benefited fairly from the economic, social and cultural gains that the country as a whole has made over the last four decades. The Australian Government needs to take steps to correct this. It must support unpaid carers to balance work and care (wherever possible), reduce gender gaps in workforce participation, and take steps to ensure more equitable retirement incomes and savings for unapid carers.

A growing movement of organisations, both nationally and internationally, has recognised the human rights implications of unfair, and unsustainable reliance on systems of unpaid care.

Here are some resources that provide wider context for Caring Fairly’s rights based agenda:

Australian Human Rights Commission 

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is an independent statutory organisation that leads the promotion and protection of human rights in Australia. In 2013, the AHRC undertook a major study Investing in care: Recognising and valuing those who care. The report report examined the impact of unpaid caring responsibilities on workforce participation and retirement incomes and savings. You can read the full report here 

The International Alliance of Carer Organizations

IACO is a group of national and multinational non-governmental organizations have created a new international organization to investigate and address issues of international family caregiving with the intent of increasing public awareness of the needs of the family caregiver on a global scale. They are represented in Australia by Carers Australia.

Employers For Carers 

Managed and supported by the specialist knowledge of Carers UK, Employers for Carers (EfC) has evolved from a pioneering group of employers committed to working carers. Their key purpose is to ensure that employers have the support to retain and manage employees with caring responsibilities. EfC now has over 100 member organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors. 

Carers Worldwide 

Carers Worldwide develops and promotes cost effective, sustainable and easily replicable methods of providing support to carers in low and middle income countries. Since 2012, their work has impacted the lives of over 7,000 carers in Nepal and India.

Economic Security 4 Women

eS4W is a national women’s alliance, funded by the Australian Government through the Office for Women in the Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.  It is an alliance of women’s organisations united in the belief that economic wellbeing and financial security are essential for women and will enable women of all ages to have an equal place in society.