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Caregiving as an Income Risk? Research Team Publishes Study

When employed relatives take over family care for a longer period, they lose 2.7 percent of their hourly wage. That is the result of a study carried out by the SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy at the University of Bremen together with the German Centre of Gerontology.

In light of demographic change, the demand for professional and private care will increase. Many people in need of care prefer family care over institutional care. Do care needs that are met within a family have a negative effect on employment situations and income? This statement was proven to be correct by the research carried out by sociologists Lara Minkus and Moritz Heß, SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy at the University of Bremen, and Ulrike Ehrlich, German Centre of Gerontology in Berlin. They analyzed comprehensive data from the Socio-Economic Panel, which was based on representative and regular interviews held in private households in Germany.

“Extensive Income Reductions”

The research team split employed persons on the German job market into two groups: Those who do not provide care and those who support relatives for at least one hour per day from Monday to Friday with bodily care, feeding, household jobs or mobility. The result: As soon as employed persons start to care for relatives, their hourly wage experiences a reduction of around 2.7 percent. There is a reduction in income for both women and men. “Our results indicate that there are extensive income reductions that cannot be the result of the usual factors; a lack of job market experience, for example,” says the Bremen scientist and co-author Lara Minkus.

Differences between Men and Women Become Clear

The study also offers a further explanation for the difference in men and women’s income – the so-called gender pay gap. “Women carry out family care more often than men do and are therefore affected more by the related income effects. This then leads to a cementing of the gender pay gap,” explains Lara Minkus.

Authors’ Summary

The awareness of the circumstance that caregivers carry out a job that is important for the whole of society and is very time consuming should be increased. That is the authors’ summary. Politics, employers, and unions could contribute by creating improved conditions for the compatibility of family care and employment. On a company level, flexible working opportunities would help caregivers. By being able to have flexible working hours, potential points of friction between family care and employee obligations could be bypassed and in this way, reductions in income could be avoided.

Study Team

The sociologists Lara Minkus and Ulrike Ehrlich completed their PhDs at the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS). Lara Minkus is carrying out research on the interface between gender and the job market whilst Ulrike Ehrlich focusses on the connection between care and working life. The gerontologist Moritz Heß has been a SOCIUM member for the past year. In Mannheim he completed his PhD on the topic of aging and pension transitions.

Online journal article:


Dr. Lara Minkus
SOCIUM Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58536


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