Print version ISSN 0213-9111
GARCIA-CALVENTE, María del Mar; MATEO-RODRIGUEZ, Inmaculada and EGUIGUREN, Ana P.. The system of informal caregiving as inequality. Gac Sanit [online]. 2004, vol.18, suppl.1, pp. 132-139. ISSN 0213-9111. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0213-91112004000700021.
In our setting, it is families, not the health and social services, who play the greatest role in providing continuous care to persons in need of such services. Informal health care poses two key questions with regard to the issue of equity: differences in the burdens borne by men and women, which contribute to gender inequality and, depending on their educational and socio-economic level, inequities in their ability to choose and gain access to needed resources and support services, thus contributing to social class inequalities. Distributing the burden of caregiving between men and women, and between the family and the state, constitutes a crucial debate in public health. This study analyzes the concept and characteristics of informal care, provides data on its dimensions in our setting, and analyzes the profile of caregivers, as well as the work they do and the impact it has on their lives. Finally, it presents currently existing models and support strategies for informal caregivers. It is largely women who assume the principal role of providing informal care, undertaking the most difficult and demanding tasks and dedicating the largest share of their time to them. As a result, women bear an elevated cost in their lives in terms of health, quality of life, access to employment and professional development, social relations, availability of time for themselves, and economic repercussions. Unemployed, under-educated women from the least privileged social classes constitute the largest group of informal caregivers in our country. Any policies aimed at supporting those who provide such care should keep in mind the unequal point from which they start and be evaluated in terms of their impact on gender and social class inequality.
Keywords : Informal care; Caregivers; Gender inequality; Class inequality; Social support.