The Unspoken Expense of the Family Caregiver

As an increasing amount of Canadians are caring for senior loved ones, family caregivers – and their employers – are learning more about work-family conflict.

Caring for an ageing parent or a family member with a disability or incurable ailment is becoming a daily component of many Canadians lives. But caregiving is also hurting finances and employment, according to new research by a team co-headed by Prof. Donna Lero of Guelph’s Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being and Prof. Janet Fast of the University of Alberta’s Research Program on Aging Policies and Practice.

The study revealed , about 2.3 million employed Canadians provide uncompensated care to a family member or friend. “While caregiving is a positive experience for many, people often have to miss work or reduce work hours and forgo job opportunities to provide care,” Lero said. “This has economic costs for caregivers, their families and employers.”

Employers feel the financial strain of caregiving through absenteeism, lost productivity, and recruitment and training of new personnel, said Fast. Canadians and policy-makers need to better understand this phenomenon and its impact on paid employment. “It represents an enormous loss of productivity to employers and to the economy in general-the equivalent of 157,000 full-time employees annually,” reported Fast.

The researchers analyzed Statistics Canada’s 2007 General Social Survey – the most recent data available – to compile a overview of employment consequences of unpaid caregiving across the country. Among their findings:

Of all employees aged 45 and older, 37% of women and 28% of men are unpaid caregivers, and 40% care for two or more people.
Employed caregivers spent on average the equivalent of one full workday per week providing direct care and support.
Caregiving affects employment, earnings and long-term economic security more for women than for men.
38% of caregivers believe that using support systems such as flexible scheduling, which are offered in some workplaces, would harm their careers.

The researchers are now studying how employers are adapting policies and practices for caregiving employees. “Work-family conflict continues to be a serious problem in Canada,” Lero said.

Originally posted on our newsletter here.



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