As the United States emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critically important to reflect on the human and economic impact of the last few years and capitalize on lessons learned to accelerate system transformation. Many people are suffering from the loss of more than 1 million loved ones (as of June 2022) or are challenged to support the tens of millions living with the long-term effects of this disease.1 Many sectors of the economy have been decimated, contributing to the loss of employment of 16.9 million individuals as of July 2020.2 Approximately 3.5 million of these individuals were women who were forced to leave the workforce to care for children as schools and child care facilities shut down.3 During the first year of the pandemic, U.S. female workforce participation dropped to its lowest level in over three decades. While employment has rebounded, the number of permanent job losses was 1.4 million in May 2022.4 Additionally, a high number of individuals have not returned to the workforce or have quit their jobs, with many more predicted to leave their places of employment in the coming months.4 5 6
Pandemic impact on working caregivers
A segment of society especially hard hit throughout this tumultuous period has been working caregivers, full- or part-time employees who have attempted to maintain their employment while also caring for spouses, aging parents or children coping with serious health problems or disabilities.7 Collectively, the devastating effects of this pandemic underscore inequities and illuminate long-standing vulnerabilities experienced by working caregivers, a rapidly growing segment of the workforce. A core source of their vulnerability is financial stress, an issue that is particularly challenging for diverse subgroups. One sector uniquely positioned to mitigate the financial stress of working caregivers is employers. This report offers a roadmap for employers to capitalize on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and, in doing so, to enhance the financial well-being of working caregivers while increasing employers’ capacity to recruit and retain a talented and productive workforce.
To suggest a path forward, a review and analysis of available research related to both the sources of financial stress of working caregivers and potential solutions was conducted. Findings were augmented by perspectives elicited during interviews with leaders in the field. Then, an expanded group of experts was convened to comment on preliminary ideas. Their input is reflected in the report’s final recommendations.
This report contains the following:
- Describes the current status of working caregivers in the U.S.
- Highlights common sources of financial stress
- Emphasizes the differential impact of this stressor on diverse subgroups
- An overview of promising policies and practices that target the financial well-being of working caregivers
- A description of challenges employers confront in providing such benefit and programs, and in engaging working caregivers in optimizing their use