Millions of Canadians struggle to balance full-time jobs and unpaid support for loved ones

The daily reality takes a toll on a caregivers’ health and finances, but is often invisible to employers and policy makers

EDMONTON — More than five million Canadians provide care to family members or friends with chronic health conditions, disabilities or aging-related functional limitations while also working, most in full time jobs — a plight University of Alberta researchers say is concerning.

“This needs to be understood as a serious challenge for family caregivers and as a legitimate policy issue,” says Janet Fast, a professor in the Department of Human Ecology in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences who studies the economics of aging, and caregiving.

To bring attention to the situation, Fast, U of A social gerontologist Jacquie Eales and other U of A researchers, are analyzing the most recent data from Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey on Caregiving and Care Receiving, using a subsample of 4,940 working people aged 19 to 70 who were also providing unpaid care to family and friends.

The work is generating infographics co-created by the U of A’s Research on Aging, Policies and Practice and its research partners, Caregivers Alberta, the Vanier Institute of the Family and the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence. The research was funded by AGE-WELL NCE.

Caregiving is work, with women spending on average 13.8 hours per week providing care and men spending 10 hours. That’s on top of paid work responsibilities. Here are several key findings:

One in four Canadians of working age is a caregiver: As of 2018, an estimated 5.2 million working people aged 19 to 70 were family caregivers, just over half of them women. Most caregivers worked 30 or more hours a week at a full time job.

Most working caregivers are older: Almost one in three employed caregivers was aged 50 to 59, followed by 22 per cent aged 40 to 49, making caregiving a current workplace issue and more pressing as the demographics of the workforce and the population change.

One in five employed caregivers has low income: Twenty percent of caregivers made less than $20,000 per year before taxes, with another 23 per cent making under $40,000 a year. This puts additional financial strain on caregivers who earn little, incur extra expenses because of their caregiving, and are struggling to save for their own retirement.

Caregiving hurts job security, especially for women: Women accounted for almost 60 per cent of the 214,000 workers who left the paid labour force in 2018 due to caregiving duties. They were also more likely to work fewer paid hours to balance their dual roles, impacting their income security.

More caregiving means less work-life balance: Employed caregivers who provide more hours of care are at risk for poor work-life balance, the U of A analysis showed.

More information is here. To speak with Janet Fast or Jacquie Eales, please contact:

Sarah Vernon | University of Alberta communications associate |