Pharmaceutical giant Merck began taking an interest in family carers some years ago. Its drugs help to control diseases and conditions, yes, but behind those who rely on the drugs are an army of family caregivers.

Many of them women and girls.

Caring and its economic impacts and opportunities

Merck Healthcare Group CEO Belen Garijo has penned a thoughtful article for the World Economic Forum about how Covid-19 fuels gender equality. The Forum operates as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Two thirds of New Zealand’s family carers are women. At a time when we are debating raising the age of retirement, Carers NZ can attest that many carers – predominantly women – are leaving work before the age of 65.

They are leaving work to care.

Often we debate the costs of supporting carers, and in the many hurdles New Zealand has faced to get the country through Covid-19 we have taken family carers for granted.

They were the last to be thought of for PPE – masks and gloves to keep them and someone vulnerable safe.

Key policy implementations were made hastily without provision of good information to help carers navigate important services at one of the most stressful times in our history.

As we rebuild we need to do better for carers – because they deserve it, of course, but also because if we keep neglecting their needs we will seriously harm the economy.

Our population is getting older and we are living longer with higher health and disability support needs than past generations.

Most complex care is delivered at home, in the community, usually by women – women who work, or who can keep working if they get support at the right times.

Let one of New Zealand’s pandemic lessons be that its family carers need to be front of mind in any future emergencies, so they receive the information, support, and advice they need to keep their families safe, keep going, keep working – initiatives like CareWise, delivered with and through carer friendly employers.

Belen’s article is worthwhile reading for CareWise employers who want to understand the impacts caring can have on work, wellbeing, and the economy. Highly recommended.

By Carers NZ chief executive Laurie Hilsgen.

She Cares: resources for women who care

Carers NZ’s She Cares awareness campaign profiles New Zealand’s women carers. We’ve been gathering their stories for awhile now and will keep adding their voices to our She Cares archive.

CareWise employers can request special She Cares infopacks for female staff in caring roles by phoning 0800 777 797 or emailing