Friday, October 29, 2010

The [Caregiver’s] Gender Gap

The wage disparity between men and women continues to affect the economic security of working women. Another gender gap, however, is the caregiver gap. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 59-75% of caregivers are women. The caregiver gap contributes to lower earning potential, disproportionately affecting women, because many have to take time off work or digress from full-time work to part-time to make time for caregiving. This trend is then reflected in retirement through lower Social Security benefits and fewer retirement savings.

The Alzheimer’s Association conducted a “Women and Alzheimer’s” poll as part of its A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s report and found that among workers who care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, 21% of female caregivers and 18% of male caregivers had to take time off from work. In addition, 14% of female caregivers and 11% of male caregivers went from full-time to part-time work and 10% of female caregivers and 3% of male caregivers retired early because of their responsibilities. These caregiving decisions affect a caregiver’s lifelong economic security.

The poll also found that a majority (64%) of workers who care for someone with Alzheimer’s needed to arrive to work late, leave early or take time in the day from work. However, men were more likely than women (70% vs. 61%) to go in to work late or leave early because men are more likely to be in fields with more flexible schedules, or are more likely to ask for flexibility.

It is essential to advocate for job flexibility and expand workplace protections to assist caregivers and families. For those caregivers who decide to take time off from work, the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act (H.R. 769) can help by implementing a formula to credit caregiving for up to five years so that individuals are not penalized for leaving the workforce by a reduction in Social Security benefits. Another part of the solution is expanding the Child Care Tax credit to include a Caregiver Tax Credit that will assist caregivers in building economic security for themselves and their families.

Supporting the needs of caregivers is essential to promoting elder economic security; there cannot be one without the other.

Kelly Stellrecht
Field and Program Associate
Elder Economic Security Initiative

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