Caring Over the Lifecycle: the Roles of Families and Welfare States Today and Into the Future

Project summary

Economic development in parallel to demographic changes over the past decades have altered family structures and the way care is given and received along the lifecycle. This long-running trend has been recently affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially the tragic rates of mortality in too many institutional care settings for the elderly, and the widespread closures of schools. These dramatic changes make more evident how the market economy relies on non-market economic activities to provide welfare in general and care to dependent children and elders. At the same time, it has highlighted just how much the informal care economy relates to inequality in general and exposes the gender gap.

Our WELLCARE research proposal will investigate how the welfare state, the market, and the family interact to provide care along the lifecycle and hence, how it affects welfare and inequality at both intra and intergenerational levels. More specifically, WELLCARE first will provide a comprehensive view of the care economy in the following dimensions:

  • Care given and received along the whole life cycle, including both care given to children, disabled and the dependent elderly.
  • The different resource allocation mechanisms available to provide care (market, government and family).

Second, WELLCARE will provide more in-depth understanding of the sources of intra and intergenerational inequality accounting for the role of the care economy by:

  • Exploring and integrating information from existing sample survey and related microdata sets in Europe and Canada to produce a quantified view of the care economy both in financial terms and for measures of informal care provided and received.
  • Based on this empirical analysis, develop the dynamic microsimulation model WELLCARE to simulate and project into the future measures of care both to children and to the elderly provided formally by the market or the government and informally by the family.

We will combine two additional methodologies to compare the interactions among formal and informal care, income and wealth in creating inequality.

  1. The macro module of the WELLCARE model will be based on the National Transfer Accounts (NTA) accounting framework. This method gives a comprehensive measure of how resources move across age groups by means of the market, public or private transfers among generations, aligned to System of National Accounts (SNA). The method also measures home production and consumption and hence time transfers (NTTA) to complete the picture of intergenerational resource allocations. We will also depart from the standard method by building NTA-NTTA estimates for heterogeneous groups in order to approach both intra and intergenerational redistribution issues.
  2. Additionally, a case study on the UK will be developed to consider the behavioral responses of individuals. More specifically a structural model will be designed to explore how the labor supply and saving decision are altered by the availability of formal care.

WELLCARE puts together an interdisciplinary group of researcher’s expertise in the different methodologies involved (developed between EUROMOD, dynamic microsimulation techniques and National Transfer Accounts), continuing the previous symbiosis/synergies and in the WELTRASIM project. The synergies between WELLCARE’s researches will improve the existing knowledge on the impact of the welfare state transfers in inequality.

This proposal delineates the necessary management structure to foster the development of this research project and ensure its scientific and societal impact, following a clear dissemination strategy. The coordinator and the Project manager, together with the Steering Committee, will interact with the Advisory Board composed of external stakeholders (academia, the public service, and third pillar (charity) institutions) to exploit and disseminate the research results.

Project details

WELLCARE participated in the fourth joint call on ‘Equality and Wellbeing across Generations’.

Project duration and budget

Project duration: 36 months
Total costs: €959.612


  • Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.
    Coordinator: Prof Concepció Patxot
  • Australian Institute of Economic Research WIFO, Austria.
    Dr Martin Spielauer
  • Universit of Ottawa, Canada.
    Prof Michael Wolfson
  • University of Essex, United Kindom.
    Prof Matteo Richiardi
    Dr Justin van de Ven
    Mr Patryk Bronka
  • Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain.
    Prof Guadalupe Souto