High-quality childcare is out of reach for millions of families—it's expensive, government subsidies are inadequate, and childcare is hard to find. This creates significant stress on working parents and contributes to a lack of stability and profitability in the labor force overall. Low wages, unpredictable schedules, and features of low quality jobs make securing reliable care, completing training programs, and pursuing higher quality jobs out of reach for many workers.
Why This Matters
Millions of American workers—more often women than men—must balance caregiving responsibilities for children and aging family members. While men’s employment numbers have returned to pre-pandemic levels, 1.4 million female workers left jobs from 2020 to 2021 and have not returned to the labor force. Many of these women cite caregiving as a reason for leaving their jobs. The following statistics further illuminate this point:
There are approximately 41 million unpaid family caregivers in the United States (about 1 in 6)
As many as 73% of employees report having some type of caregiving responsibility
One-third of all US employees have left a job during their career in order to manage an unmet caregiving responsibility; this percentage has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic
The total cost of unpaid family care in the United States is about $67 billion, which includes reduced work hours and lost earnings to take time off to help a loved one.
Workforce development activities such as education and training programs must accommodate caregiver needs and/or be coupled with appropriate resources or subsidies to secure care. These activities should also recognize how wage progression has immediate impacts on high-value childcare subsidies that can be harmful to workers in the near-term. Workforce boards, employers, worker organizations and other key partners can work to improve support for caregivers in their programs and advocate for broader policy changes that will help caregivers of all income levels advance in their careers.
This intervention provides workforce and economic development agencies with examples and opportunities to strengthen childcare systems for working families through building caregiving into their service delivery models, incorporating caregiving within their own benefits packages and supporting policies and practices to promote equity, job quality and resiliency for childcare workers and businesses.
Recommended actions can help workforce and economic development agencies advance strategies to finance their job quality strategy for the long term