More women leaving work to care for older relatives: study

As the need for elder care is increasing so are the related work disruptions, with more women than men taking on the responsibility, according to a new study by the Institute for Work and Health.

The study used figures from Statistics Canada’s labour force survey, which compiled responses from more than 5.8 million workers, aged 40 and older, between 1997 to 2015. It found 15,000 workers either left their jobs or moved to part-time work in 2012 to care for older relatives. This is up dramatically from 3,300 in 1997.

Read: How to help employers with elder care responsibilities 

The research found women were 73 per cent more likely to permanently leave work for elder care than men. They were also five per cent more likely to work part time, twice as likely to take time off during a work week and, when temporary absence was required to provide informal care, women took an average of 2.5 hours more off than men.

In a household where both a man and woman work, the woman’s work was more likely to be affected by an elderly parent who required care, according to the study. This remained true even when men and women worked similar jobs and earned similar pay.

Read: As men take on more outside-of-work roles, women win in workplace: study

Due to the growing population of older adults and increased longevity, the effects of informal elder care on labour market participation will continue to grow, said Peter Smith, senior scientist at the IWH, in a press release. And the responsibility for that care will fall disproportionately on women, he added.

“Organizations can’t change the amount of care needed by workers’ older family members, but their policies around flexibility and autonomy may reduce the impact caregiving has on workers’ ability to stay in the labour market or on their need to take hours off work and how many,” noted Smith.