Care for a frail elderly relative in France, Belgium, Italy and Norway. Profile of informal caregivers, norms and habits of populations

Mélanie Bourguignon, Université Catholique de Louvain
Catherine Gourbin, Université Catholique de Louvain

Population ageing stands as one major challenge of the 21st century. Combined with the increase of functional disabilities with age, the lack of financial means challenges the ability of policies to offer services for the elderly. Moreover, the weakening of family structures and the women’s participation in the labour force affect the availability of relatives to care for parents. This contribution concerns the impact of institutional contexts on the characteristics of informal care. It focuses on France, Belgium, Italy and Norway because these countries embody different models of welfare states, providing specific answers to the needs of elderly people. The Norwegian system illustrates the social-democratic model, which offers formal services for every citizen. The Italian model is typical from Southern Europe, where caring is almost universally based on family. French and Belgian systems are intermediate models (corporatist welfare states). Many formal services are available but the family still plays an important role. These differences are expected to affect the care for ageing and dependence, as well as the role expected from the relatives. Based on the perspective of informal carers, this research consists in statistical analysis of data from the Generations and Gender Surveys. The main results reveal that generosity of welfare states affects characteristics of informal carers. Women, elderly people, respondents who live close to their parents and have at least one dependent parent are more likely to be informal carers. However, some national exceptions are observed, reflecting cultural preferences, norms and habits. Generosity of welfare states also affects opinions of people in terms of filial obligations and repartition of responsibilities between the state and the family. The low availability of formal help, the legal obligation of children to care for their parents and the family-oriented culture contribute to increase the involvement of relatives in care.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 18: Intergenerational relations: norms and behaviour