Caregiving Harming Employment, Careers, Research Shows

April 08, 2011 - News Release

Caring for an aging parent or a family member with a disability or chronic ailment is becoming a normal part of life for an increasing number of Canadians. But caregiving is also hurting finances and employment, according to new research by a team co-headed by a social scientist at the University of Guelph.

The team’s findings are being made public this week via websites and workplace presentations and at an academic conference. The researchers are led 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.

About 2.3 million working Canadians provide unpaid care to a family member or friend, said Lero, a professor in Guelph’s Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition and holder of the Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work.

“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,” she said. “This has economic costs for caregivers, their families and employers.”

Employers bear the costs of caregiving through absenteeism, lost productivity, and recruitment and training of new personnel, said Fast, a professor in Alberta’s Department of Human Ecology.

“It represents an enormous loss of productivity to employers and to the economy in general — the equivalent of 157,000 full-time employees annually.”

Canadians and policy-makers need to better understand this phenomenon and its impact on paid employment, she said.

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

• Of all employees aged 45 and older, 37 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men are unpaid caregivers, and 40 per cent 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 per cent of caregivers believe that using support systems such as flexible scheduling 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. “These findings have important implications for public policy and business practice.”

Prof. Donna Lero
University of Guelph
Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition
Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being
519-824-4120, Ext. 53914
519-820-2282 (cell)

Prof. Janet Fast
University of Alberta
Department of Human Ecology
Research Program on Aging Policies and Practice
780-492-5768 (cell)

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338,, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982,

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1