Governments of advanced European welfare states with ageing populations are struggling to reconcile what seem to be conflicting policies. On the one hand, they are trying to increase the labour market participation of women and older workers. On the other hand, they are making more demands on people to care for disabled, chronically ill and frail older relatives and friends. Those caregivers are more likely to be women and older people. In this paper, we present the policies and experiences of carers from two countries that differ in type of welfare state, health and social care system and labour market context: England and The Netherlands. The aim was to compare English and Dutch policy measures for carers and examine their impact with evidence from two studies of people who combine work and care. The analysis is informed by the theoretical concepts of ‘doulia’ (whereby the state, employers and other sections of society reciprocate carers and other dependency workers for their unpaid caregiving) and ‘doulia rights’ (a carer's right to provide care without the risk of impoverishment). The evidence suggests that English and Dutch carers’ policies have different strengths and weaknesses, but in neither country do they show strong commitment to the right to doulia.