Family Day imagery neglects family caregivers’ care work; it needs to be valued

23 February 2022

Value of family caregiving in Canada

New research by Sustainable Care programme colleagues at the University of Alberta reveals the value of unpaid carers in Canada.

In an article in the Conversation, Professor Janet Fast and Jacquie Eales expand on some of the key messages from their research into the magnitude of hours which family members spend caring for loved ones. The article was written to coincide with Family Day, which is observed in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick on the third Monday of February. This holiday celebrates the importance of families and family life to people and their communities.

Using data from Statistics Canada’s most recent (2018) national survey on caregiving and care receiving, they found that unpaid carers spend 5.7 billion hours every year supporting family members in need of care, which equates to a cost of $97.1 billion.

Further facts and figures have been presented in the infographic below.

Value of family caregiving in Canada infographic

Other key facts in the infographic:

  • In Canada there were 7.8 million caregivers in 2018.

  • 1 in 4 Canadians aged 15+ were caregivers.

  • It would take 2.8 million full-time equivalent workers to replace the 5.7 billion unpaid hours that family caregivers provide.

  • Caregiver's contributions to the care economy represent:

    • 4.2% of gross domestic product.

    • 32.2% of national expenditures on health care.

    • More than three times the national expenditure on home, community and long-term care.

Why these figures matter

Policymakers rely on GDP as a universal measure of a country’s social and economic performance and standard of living that guides their policy decisions. Yet, because GDP omits the value of unpaid care work, it is an incomplete measure leading to flawed public policy.

Family caregiving is often ignored because it is unpaid, undervalued, hidden in the privacy of homes and care facilities, and done primarily by women. If this type of care is continually ignored, the burden placed on families to provide care will increase and have a negative impact on their wellbeing.

Without the ongoing commitment and labour of family caregivers, the Canadian continuing care sector would collapse.

Learn more about Janet’s and Jacquie’s research at Research on Aging Policy and Practice