Over 2.6 million Australians are carers, but a growing number of Australians are finding themselves ‘sandwiched’ between meeting the needs of young (or teenage) children, ageing parents, and work.
Researchers have identified two distinct groups within the sandwich generation:
While official numbers are hard to understand, an estimated 1.5 million middle-aged Aussies are part of the ‘sandwich generation.’
Think about the top performers in your organisation, are they headed for this life stage?
Australians have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. On average, men live 80 years and women live 84, 25 years longer than a century ago. Baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1964) now account for 21.5 per cent of the nation’s 25 million-plus residents, with the more senior members now aged in their late seventies.
Historically, unpaid caring roles have been undertaken by women. Figures from the 2022 HILDA survey show females are “considerably more likely” to be carers than males, with 10.3 per cent of females over 15 providing unpaid care compared with 6.3 per cent of males. This disproportionate share impacts women in many ways, meaning they are less likely to engage in full-time paid work, retire with less superannuation, earn less (hello gender pay gap), and more likely to experience a mental health condition.
High-stress levels among those in the sandwich or double sandwich generation can be exacerbated by isolation, a lack of support, and their own physical health conditions. Throw in the pressures of work and that sandwich starts to resemble toasted cheese: stretched thin and on the verge of melting (down).
The upside is that employers and leaders can take action in many ways to support carers in the workplace.
Supporting employees with caring responsibilities can have positive impacts in the workplace. Organisations that provide strong support are more likely to see:
Positive workplace policies and practices include:
Establishing a reputation as a family-friendly employer that provides genuine and practical support to carers can contribute to a healthy and engaged workforce. Workplaces that educate and encourage help-seeking behaviours by providing practical tools, resources and information can help all carers successfully navigate this tricky life stage.
To find out more about how Transitioning Well can help you support parents and carers in your workplace, take a look at our transition coaching resources.