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Supporting Family Caregivers Could Add $1.7 Trillion to U.S. GDP

Man helps older man walk with walker

Do you know someone who left a full-time job to care for an older family member? Maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re the one working reduced hours to help out an aging parent or a chronically ill spouse, or you’re balancing a full-time job with caregiving responsibilities. Family caregivers are a crucial thread in our social fabric, and many of them will tell you that the thread is frayed and at risk of coming entirely undone.

More than 60 percent of family caregivers endure some kind of work-related difficulty in order to tend to family or friends. Some are passed up for promotions; others face discrimination. Many end up leaving their jobs due to a lack of flexibility or paid time off. This is a problem because family caregivers of all ages are major contributors to businesses and the overall U.S. economy. The contribution of caregivers over age 50 is particularly notable, as they are in the prime of their careers. And yet, both workplace and government policies fail to support them. Half of the 48 million American family caregivers don’t have access to paid leave at work and the toll—both psychological and financial—this takes on them is real. They’re paying bills late, skipping mortgage payments, and going into debt. Others are driven out of the workforce altogether, resulting in lost opportunities for economic growth.

This is a problem not just for American families—it’s a huge (and mounting) problem for our nation’s economy. Yet, as The Economic Impact of Supporting Family Caregivers, a report recently published by AARP reveals, the solution is in plain sight: If family caregivers ages 50-plus actually had appropriate and necessary support in the workplace, the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could grow by an additional $1.7 trillion (5.5 percent) by 2030 and by $4.1 trillion (6.6 percent) by 2050.

Moreover, increasing caregiver support in the workplace also will cause consumer spending to grow in key industries. Our research shows that spending on technology products, financial services and insurance, transportation services, and motor vehicles would increase by $1.1 trillion more in 2030 than is currently projected, and by $2.5 trillion more in 2050 if caregivers had the support they needed to be able to continue to work.

Given the COVID-driven economic downturn, now is a critical time to consider support for working family caregivers as part of a larger strategy for economic recovery and growth. Employers and governments that provide better supports for older working family caregivers enable them to participate more actively in the economy—and that’s good for everyone.

It’s both a moral and economic issue that we have a responsibility to address. Public- and private-sector employers must provide better support for their employees who are family caregivers. Whether it’s teleworking, flexible schedules, revised leave policies, or a myriad other opportunities, employers must find a way to ensure their caregiver employees have access to the supports they need to continue working. In addition, the federal government must pass legislation to provide tax credits and other incentives to working caregivers. Only then will full-time employees who perform double-duty have the chance to stay productively engaged in the labor force, impacting their own bottom line as well as the country’s.

To learn more about this issue, you can read our full report, The Economic Impact of Supporting Working Family Caregivers at Also, keep an eye out for additional blog posts that specifically address the impact of both gender and race on a family caregiver’s ability to juggle work and caregiving responsibilities.

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