The gender bias of caregiving economics

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

female caregiversDid you know that American businesses can lose as much as $34 billion each year due to employees' need to care for older loved ones? And in terms of the hidden costs of elder caregiving, AARP estimates that U.S. employers spend $6.6 billion to replace employees who leave the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities, on top of nearly $6.3 billion in lost productivity due to workday caregiving interruptions.

Most older adults with long-term care needs rely exclusively on family and friends to provide assistance. The American Time Use Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that around 41.3 million people provide unpaid eldercare, and according to the National Center on Caregiving at the Family Caregiver Alliance, an estimated two-thirds of those caregivers are female.

This is an even bigger issue when you review the gender demographic trends. Working female caregivers spend more time caregiving compared to their male counterparts. In fact, female caregivers spend approximately 60 percent more time than their male counterparts. This caregiver, on average, is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home.

A recent Harvard study spotlights the demographic and workforce trends business owners face in finding quality employees in the future. One of the most obvious trends is that the U.S. economy has become fully dependent on women. And women take on a significantly higher portion of caregiving—of both children and older adults—than men. Female caregivers are undervalued (as are all caregivers) and they put their own economic security on the line when they step back from the workforce to provide care for an older loved one. A MetLife study of working caregivers found that working women who also serve as caregivers lose more than $320,000 over their lifetime in lost wages, pensions or retirement savings, and Social Security benefits.

This information is more evidence that employers will need to seriously consider how caregiving responsibilities impact the ability of their employees— especially their female employees—to work and achieve their career ambitions. To partner with Council on Aging to better understand how your business can support all family caregivers, please contact us here.