Aide-Memoire

                           Expert Group Meeting

                          "Gender and Caregiving"
           (Valletta, Malta, 30 November - 2 December 1997)
      

Introduction

      The programme on ageing, Division for Social Policy and Development,
and the Division for the Advancement of Women, both of the United Nations
Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, in
cooperation with the International Institute on Ageing, Malta, will hold an
Expert Group Meeting on "Gender and Caregiving", to take place in Malta
from 30 November to 2 December 1997. 

      In the context of the exploration of policy issues based on the
Conceptual Framework for the International Year of Older Persons, 1999
(A/50/114), informal caregiving and the reliance on women to undertake this
function, is an important, yet often little-discussed policy issue.  Since
informal caregiving seems destined to be relied upon even more in the
future, an analysis of current policies on family/informal care and their
gender perspective impact is timely.

      The Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on
Women (1995), recognized age as a barrier to full equality. It also asked
for the recognition of the unremunerated work of women.  Furthermore, the
Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and
Development (Cairo, 1994), recognized the importance of women as the main
custodians of family health, and urged that support be provided to them.

      The results of this Meeting will be presented to the 42nd Session of
the Commission on the Status of Women in March 1998  under the agenda item:
"Emerging Issues".  It will also contribute to the ongoing work of the
United Nations programme on ageing on this topic, and as an input to the
International Year of Older Persons.

Background

      As the number and proportion of older persons continues to rise,
particularly within the very old category, which is predominantly female,
the issue of care, which has already become an important issue in developed
countries, is high on government policy agendas. In developing countries,
where the issue will become critical in the near future as their very large
young population age, many governments have not even begun to address the
policy implications.

      Social and economic trends such as the changes in family structure,
increased mobility and migration, and the higher rates of employed women,
the constraints of public finances, and policies which do not always favour
social issues, all affect care options and patterns.  There are also strong
influences from the varying cultural and social traditions and approaches
among States vis--vis caregiving.

      However, on a near worldwide scale, informal caregiving has always
been a main pillar of support, and almost always performed by women. This
support is currently being called upon more and more by governments as
cut-backs are made in most public welfare systems. As populations age, both
care givers and receivers are becoming older, and many women find
themselves in the role of caregivers for a considerable period of their
lives between children and ageing parents.  This often has negative results
for women, both in economic and social terms, through lack of career
prospects and insufficient pension contributions. 

       Due to their larger numbers, an underlying variable of importance to
the circumstances of women in old age is their state of health, often a
direct result of earlier experiences.  A number of women face
discrimination in their access to adequate healthcare which is vital to
lead a healthy lifestyle throughout the life course. 

       Often as a result of the aforementioned factors, the propensity
toward poverty among older women increases their need for family care when
other forms of care are not economically accessible to them.

      In developing countries, the nearly similar demographic, and to some
extent, cultural trends which have affected developed countries are now
repeating themselves. The lack of formal welfare systems, and a total
reliance on family care for the elderly (again, mostly by women), sets the
scene for large-scale caregiving problems in the near future, with no other
partners ready to step in.  

      Many argue that rather than "privatizing" caregiving to be shared
between the "privacy of the family" and the private sector, with a
concurrent withdrawal of the State from the arena, the successful care of a
growing elderly population will require a collective approach of all in the
community, including government.

      Initiatives such as family leave, paid caregiving,
practical/emotional support to care givers, care insurance, flexible work
scheduling, job sharing, are all being experimented with in some developed
countries to some degree, and all have had their pros and cons in practice. 
 

Objectives

      To suggest possible policy options which are both economically and
socially sustainable, while also in the best interests of both caregivers
and receivers by:

      - analyzing from a gender perspective current caregiving patterns on
a global basis;

      - analyzing recent or proposed policy innovations aimed at     helping
and encouraging family/personal caregivers;

      - exploring innovative approaches to meet the needs of  caregivers,
especially women, taking into account the stresses placed on them; 

      - exploring innovative projects as alternatives to traditional
institutional care;

      - exploring the possibility of decreasing the need for care through
preventive measures. 
 

Background documentation and profile of participants

      The basic documentation will be comprised of two background papers to
be provided by the programme on ageing and the Division for the Advancement
of Women.  In addition, each expert will be expected to provide a paper, to
be outlined by the Organizers, reflecting his/her field expertise.
 
      It is anticipated that the Meeting will involve up to 12 experts
(gender and geographical balance will be taken into account).  Experts will
come from a variety of backgrounds, such as gerontology, social policy,
gender studies, and, caregiving professionals.

Organization

      The meeting will be conducted in English.  The costs of the
participation of experts invited by the Secretariat will be covered by the
organizers (travel cost in economy class and daily subsistence allowance in
Malta in accordance with the United Nations standards).   Administrative
arrangements for travel and hotel will be provided by the International
Institute on Ageing, Malta.

                   All correspondence should be addressed to:

      Mr Alexandre Sidorenko
      Officer-in-Charge
      Programme on ageing
      Division for Social Policy and Development
      Room DC2-1358
      New York, NY 10017

      Tel: (212) 963 0500
      Fax: (212) 963 3062

 


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Date last updated: 06 December 1999 by DESA/DAW
Copyright 1999 United Nations