New data from the 2016 census reveal that more than 150,000 Australians aged 18-24, or 5.6 percent of that age group, provide unpaid care for a disabled, sick or frail family member or friend, up from 5.0 percent in 2006.

This is a disgrace, not only because their vital labour is unpaid, but because of the impact it has on the lives of the young carers and those requiring care. Professional care should be available for all those who need it. 

One of these 150,000, Queensland University student Corby Small, told the Courier Mail that she has looked after her wheelchair-bound mother since she can remember.

“It can be very isolating and you’re not really sure how to talk about it and no one really understands what you’re going through or how different your life is”, Small said.

The ongoing privatisation of aged and disabled care has made it more difficult for many families to access ongoing professional care. For example, there are about 4 million disabled people in Australia, but the federal government estimates that only 410,000, about 10 percent, are eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

No wonder that the responsibility for the provision of care is increasingly falling on the shoulders of young people. Analysis accompanying the census data linked growing youth unemployment to the increase in the number of young carers.

Privatisation pushes a lot of socially necessary work from the public, paid, sphere into the private, unpaid, sphere of the home because care becomes dependent on a person’s income. 

The federal government has just announced a $35 billion splurge on new warships, proving that there is more than enough money in the system to provide high quality, professional care for all those in society who require it.