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Combining care work and paid work: Is it sustainable?

TitleCombining care work and paid work: Is it sustainable?
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsFast, J., Lero D., DeMarco R., Ferreira H., and Eales J.
Series TitleFacts
Document NumberSeptember
InstitutionResearch on Aging, Policies, and Practice (RAPP)
CityEdmonton, AB

Combining care work and paid work is the norm for many employed Canadians, with caregivers making up 30% of the workforce. In fact, there are over 5.6 million employed caregivers aged 19-70 in Canada, and most work full-time. Understanding how caregiving threatens caregivers' employment and economic security and escalates employers' costs related to absenteeism and reduced productivity is crucial for informing Canadian strategies and policies aimed at reducing avoidable employer costs. Using Statistics Canada's 2012 General Social Survey (GSS), we describe care-related employment consequences in Canada and determine what drives them. We found: * Employed women caregivers spend significantly more time providing care than men: on average, 9.5 hr/wk for women and 6.9 hr/wk for men. * Collectively, employed caregivers in Canada provide an estimated 2.4 billion hours of care, the equivalent of 1.2 million full time employees. * 44% (2.4 million) of employed caregivers reported absenteeism, missing on average between 8 and 9 days in the past 12 months because of their care responsibilities. * 15% (828,739) of employed caregivers reduced their paid work hours to provide care, cutting back their hours by 9-10 hours per week on average. * At an aggregate level, annual productivity losses to employers are enormous: 9.7 million days of absenteeism, 256 million fewer hours of paid work, and the loss of 557,698 caregiver employees who left the paid labour force altogether to provide care. * Relationship of the care receiver to the caregiver and intensity of care are the main determinants of absenteeism for both women and men, and working fewer hours for women only. * Caregivers who live in the same household as the care receiver are at greatest risk of exiting the paid labour force by being fired, quitting, or retiring early. * Women and men's access to flexible work arrangements varies considerably. While more than 3/4 of employed caregivers have the option to take short or extended leaves to handle care demands, few have the option to telework. * Almost half of employed caregivers feel that they cannot use flex work arrangements without it having a negative impact on their careers. * The availability of flexible work schedules and leave options seem especially effective at easing work-care conflict and reducing the incidence of absenteeism and working fewer hours for pay. * Having flex options does not help employed caregivers remain attached to the labour force.

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