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-à-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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