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Economic Costs of Care

There are 3.8 million caregivers age 45 and older in Canada and their numbers are growing rapidly. While caring for family members and friends is becoming a normative mid-life experience, we are beginning to recognize both caregiving's potential to profoundly affect the life course of caregivers and the limits of the family/friend care sector. 

A key element of our research program focuses on the challenges and implications of combining paid work with unpaid care work for caregivers, employers and public policy makers. There are more than 2.3 million employed caregivers in Canada. Work-family conflict among these Canadians is common - at least 60% of caregivers make adjustments to their paid work arrangements as a result:

  • missing whole or part days of work

  • reducing their hours of work

  • quitting or retiring early from their jobs. 

There is also growing international evidence that these adjustments are costly to caregivers:

  • reducing current and future income

  • reducing access to current and future benefits, including pension benefits

  • greatly increasing the risk that they will become the poor seniors of tomorrow.

Caregivers' individual decisions can have profound cumulative downstream effects for the sustainability of the labour market and of the formal health and continuing care sectors, as well as the profitability of individual firms who employ them. In Canada in 2002, employed caregivers collectively:

  • missed 1.5 million work days per month

  • reduced their work hours by 2.2 million hours per week

In order to make good business and policy decisions we need to understand the full costs of care and how those costs are shared among stakeholders (caregivers, employers and the public sector).

Economic Costs of Care Janet Fast (PI), Norah Keating (University of Alberta), Donna Lero (University of Guelph) and Karen Duncan (University of Manitoba), with funding from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (2010-2013), are leading a research program with other collaborators to:

  • develop a framework on the economic costs of care based on a systematic literature review

  • explore the relationship between episodes of caregiving and paid work interruptions over the life course

  • determine the cumulative economic costs of labour market interruptions to family/friend caregivers

  • understand the prevalence, correlates, and social and economic consequences of out-of-pocket expenses incurred by family/friend caregivers

  • determine the extent to which workplaces are providing formal programs, policies or practices, or informal supports to employed caregivers and ascertain managers' perceptions of their effectiveness in assisting employed caregivers to manage their work and care responsibilities.