Women much more likely to leave work to look after elderly parents

Women are more likely than men to provide care to elderly parents and to drop out of the workforce when they do, according to a major US study.

The research, led by University of Calgary social work professor Dr Yeonjung Lee and published in the Journal of Applied Gerentology, is based on data from more than 5,000 Americans between the ages of 50 and 61.

It found that seven per cent of the women helped with elderly parents’ personal needs, compared with 3.6 per cent of men. Some 20 per cent helped parents with chores, errands and transportation compared with 16 per cent of men.

Women who helped elderly parents were much more likely to leave the workforce to do so, but when men took on caring roles they did not tend to leave their jobs.

The researchers said: “The results show that women caregivers for parents and/or grandchildren were less likely to be in the labour force than non-caregivers and that caregiving responsibility was not related to labour force participation for the sample of men. The findings have implication for supporting family caregivers, especially women, to balance work and caregiving commitments.”

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