Purpose The undervaluing of care work, whether conducted informally or formally, has long been subject to debate. While much discussion, and indeed reform has centred on childcare, there is a growing need, particularly in countries with ageing populations, to examine how long-term care (LTC) work is valued. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the way in which employment policies (female labour market participation, retirement age, and precarious work) and social policies (care entitlements and benefits/leave for carers) affect both informal carers and formal care workers in a liberal welfare state with a rapidly ageing population. Design/methodology/approach Drawing the adult worker model the authors use the existing literature on ageing care and employment to examine the approach of a liberal welfare state to care work focusing on both supports for informal carers and job quality in the formal care sector. Findings The research suggests that employment policies advocating increased labour participation, delaying retirement and treating informal care as a form of welfare are at odds with LTC strategies which encourage informal care. Furthermore, the latter policy acts to devalue formal care roles in an economic sense and potentially discourages workers from entering the formal care sector. Originality/value To date research investigating the interplay between employment and LTC policies has focused on either informal or formal care workers. In combining both aspects, we view informal and formal care workers as complementary, interdependent agents in the care process. This underlines the need to develop social policy regarding care and employment which encompasses the needs of each group concurrently.