America’s Aging Population Is Bad News for Women’s Careers

Unless the U.S. can put policies in place to support family caretakers.

By Gillian B. White

Giving moms and dads time off to bond with a new baby or take care of a sick child are the types of leave policies that get lots of attention and—relatively speaking—support. While childcare is obviously important, there’s a growing need for policies that help family caregivers in a broad spectrum of circumstances. And as the population ages, flexible benefits that allow workers to take time away to care for their aging parents and relatives will become more and more important.

While the need to lend a hand to a relative is nothing new, the sheer size of  the aging population presents a unique problem. By 2030, about 20 percent of the population will be senior citizens. And age-related infirmities can often come up suddenly—for instance a fall or a stroke—leaving families scrambling both financially and logistically.

Women make up the bulk of caretakers and even if they’re acting in an unofficial capacity, the requirements of caring for someone else can force many women to reduce their participation in the labor force. According to a recent report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women are nine times more likely to report working part-time due to family caregiving needs. They are also three times as likely as their male counterparts to leave the workforce entirely as a result of the demands of caring for a relative.

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