The number of unpaid carers in England and Wales has risen to 5.8 million, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Unpaid care has increased at a faster pace than population growth between 2011 and 2011 in England and Wales. Unpaid carers for the sick, disabled and increasingly elderly in England and Wales have grown by 600,000 since the 2001 census.
The ONS have also posted an explanatory video of the new figures on their YouTube channel.
The highest increase in the extent of unpaid care occurred in the 50 hours or more per week category.
Wales had a higher percentage of people providing unpaid care compared with any English region. Unpaid care has been growing in all regions, with the exception of London and Yorkshire and the Humber.
In England there was a clear north-south divide. The highest percentage of care provision was found in the North West, North East, East and Midlands whilst London had the lowest percentage. The capital’s younger age structure and transient nature of population were cited as factors.
The importance of unpaid care was reflected by its inclusion as an item in both censuses in 2011 and 2011.
The ONS stresses that the provision of unpaid care is seen as an important social policy issue due to its vital contribution to the supply of care, as well as its effect on the employment opportunities and social and leisure activities of those providing it.
Unpaid care is defined as care provided to family members, friends, neighbours or others who have long-term health problems, disability or problems related to old age. It excludes general child care provided by household members for physically able children.
Due to the effects of an ageing population, there is an expectation that the demand for care provided by spouses and adult children will more than double over the next thirty years.
This will clearly have implications on the work-life balance of the relatives, friends and other informal carers providing it.