Against the backdrop of ongoing population ageing, informal care occupies an important place on European political agendas. This article discusses informal caregiving by middle aged and older persons in the Netherlands and other European countries, with particular emphasis on the role played by motives. The data are drawn from SHARE. Our results show that in the Netherlands, it is mainly feelings of being needed and obligation that increase the chance of informal care being given. Deriving pleasure from an activity, by contrast, reduces the likelihood. In Southern Europe, where the responsibility for providing care lies with the family, we found that, contrary to expectations, older carers do not more often feel obliged. They less often report that they feel needed or see being socially active as a way of contributing to society. Our simulations suggest that if the socially active Dutch had the same motives as their Southern European counterparts and behaved similarly in terms of informal caregiving, the number of informal carers would fall. This implies that a greater policy emphasis on family responsibility could actually bring about a decline in the amount of care given, as opposed to the envisaged increase.