AWE Staff | Joelly Lucien

National Caregivers Day came—and went—with minimal pomp and circumstance. Absent were the perfectly curated posts and pageantry that dominate social media feeds on other honorific days. Perhaps, the day’s lack of visibility is indicative of the invisible labor performed by 53 million caregivers across the U.S.

A shift in gender roles, intergenerational dynamics, and a global pandemic has changed the image, and role, of a caregiver. According to a report by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), more than 1 in 5 adults are now unpaid family caregivers devoting time, attention, and resources to a young child, an ill spouse or partner, a disabled relative, or an aging parent.

According to a new report from Harvard Business School researchers Joe Fuller and Manjari Raman, 75% of employees have dual caregiving and work responsibilities, with the vast majority indicating these responsibilities are negatively affecting their productivity in the workplace.

“American companies are facing a caregiving crisis – they just refuse to acknowledge it,” says Joseph Fuller, co-author of the HBR study about the lack of employer awareness. It turns out, among self-professed caregivers, only 28% were willing to admit that caregiving harmed their careers. With employees keeping mum and employers being slow to create a culture of care, it’s no wonder forty-nine percent of executives said they had left a job over caregiving.

Although men’s caregiving responsibilities have increased throughout the years, and during the pandemic, women still make up 66 percent of the caregiving population. The time these women have to take out of the workforce for caregiving leads to lost wages from reduced work hours, family leave, or early retirement. According to a study conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in conjunction with the National Alliance for Caregiving and the New York Medical College, for the typical woman, the lost wages due to dropping out of the labor force because of adult caregiving responsibilities averages nearly $143,000.

“Demographic trends and the changing role of women in the workforce mean that employers must “do the math” when it comes to care. By not accounting for costs like reduced productivity and increased turnover, employers leave money on the table when it comes to care,” shared Joseph Fuller on the On the Behind Bundle podcast.