Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
October 18, 2001
New report sheds light on demands on family, work, well-being
Canada’s ever-changing labour force is being asked to be more productive and innovative than ever, increasing work-life stress. But it’s not just workers with young families who are feeling the squeeze. A new report from the University of Guelph and the Women’s Bureau of Human Resources Development Canada says work-life stress is on the rise for men and women of all ages and across the job spectrum.
“Although change has always been with us, seldom has it come at us from so many directions and at such a pace,” said Donna Lero, a professor in Guelph’s Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition and one of the authors of The Work-Life Compendium 2001, published recently by the University’s Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being. Some of the changes fuelling tensions, stress and work-life conflict include family caregiving and relationship maintenance, more irregular work schedules, population aging, and the drive to be increasingly more competitive, productive and innovative, Lero said..
Statistics relating to these tension-fuelling changes and how individuals, employers and public policies influence work-life issues in Canada are addressed in the compendium, which is a compilation of the most recent national-level statistics, data and research findings. Awareness of the findings is particularly relevant to the observance of National Family Week being recognized this week across North America. The report addresses 10 main areas: the labour force, changing family roles and relationships, income trends, organizational change, work structure and work time, child care and caregiving, work-life issues for the employee, work-life issues for the employer, labour legislation, and attitudes and public opinion.
One of the greatest changes has been the number of Canadian women in the workforce, the compendium reports. The number of female workers increased by more than 100 per cent between 1976 and 2000, from 3.6 million to 7.4 million. The greatest increase has been among mothers of young children. In 1999, 61 per cent of mothers with a child under age three were in the labour force, up from 28 per cent in 1976, and about 70 per cent of employed mothers of young children were working full time. Overall, about half of Canada’s labour force has children at home, and about 15 per cent are caring for aging parents as well as children.
Both men and women are delaying retirement as well, with about 41 per cent of men working beyond age 65, the report says. And the challenges of keeping up with technological changes and increasing workloads, especially while caring for family members leaves many feeling time-crunched on a regular basis.
The report notes that ultimately, work-family conflict also affects employers in the form of higher absence rates, lower productivity, and recruitment and retention problems. The authors stress that, given predicted labour shortages, Canadian organizations can ill afford to ignore employees’ need for better balance. “Employers who can offer workers flexibility, balance and opportunities for continual learning and development will have a strategic advantage in a tight labour market and will maintain loyalty and commitment from valuable employees,” Lero said. “They will also make an important contribution to the well-being of those employees, their families and communities.”
Lero developed the compendium with Jennifer Rooney, a doctoral student in psychology and research associate with the Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being, and Karen Johnson of Human Resources Development Canada. “This is an important way of sharing our growing understanding and appreciation of work-life issues and trends,” said Linda Hawkins, executive director of the centre. “Work-life balance is a cross-cutting issue with significant implications for employers and for the economic and social well-being of individuals and families.”
Among the compendium’s highlights:
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