It’s no secret that cohorts of younger Canadians are facing economic hardship, with retirement looking like a distant dream for many. A new Statistics Canada report shows many are also being pushed into caregiving roles for two generations.

A Statistics Canada report released on Tuesday said in 2022, 42 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years or older provided unpaid care to children under 15 years old or to adults 15 years or older with a long-term condition or disability in the past 12 months.

Six per cent said they were “sandwich caregiving,” or providing unpaid care to both children and care-dependent adults. Women were more likely (seven per cent) than men (five per cent) to be sandwich caregivers.

The report added that “sandwich caregiving” is most common for those 35-44 years old (29 per cent), followed by those 45-54 years old (20 per cent) and 55-64 years old (18 per cent).

Sandwich caregivers cared for their parents or parents-in-law and their own child under the age of 15 (34 per cent), their parents and grandchild under 15 (15 per cent) or their spouse or partner and their own child under 15 (eight per cent).

Arthur Sweetman, a professor of economics at McMaster University, told Global News the data is not surprising.

“A lot of people in prime age have elderly parents who are needing care and simultaneously, young children that are needing care,” he said.

“Millennials at the moment are in a really tough spot, to be perfectly honest, because the older generation has not left the country in great financial shape.”

In February, Sweetman co-authored a report that said Ontario will need to hire an additional 6,800 personal support workers in the home care sector alone by 2028 just to maintain the level of home care service currently provided across the province.

He told Global News that Canada is about to enter peak demand for home care for seniors. By the end of the decade, he predicts, the demand for in-home care will shift to demand for long-term care facilities.

“If you're in the home-care phase ... then in about six or seven years, they're going to be in the long-term care nursing care phase of their lives,” he said.

He added that Canada was ill-equipped to handle the coming wave of retirements.

“At the moment, we have a real shortage of both informal caregivers, the sandwich generation, but also formal caregivers,” he said.

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Tuesday’s StatCan report found that 86 per cent of sandwich caregivers said their care responsibilities affected at least one aspect of their health and well-being, compared with 74 per cent of caregivers for only adults and 62 per cent of caregivers for children.

The most common impacts reported were feeling tired, worried or anxious, or overwhelmed.

Nearly two-thirds of sandwich caregivers (66 per cent) said their responsibilities affected their jobs or employment prospects. They reported having to adjust their schedule, reduce hours or reduce tasks and responsibilities at work.

The report said women were more likely than men to experience negative impacts on their well-being, especially if they were “sandwiched” between multiple care responsibilities. Sweetman said that while the difference between the percentage of men and women sandwiched into caregiver roles was marginal, the difference was likely in the intensity of the work.

“The intensity of work for women is typically higher than the intensity for men. So there's two ways of thinking about it … who does any care for the elderly and then how many hours a week,” he said.

The pandemic also had an impact on caregiving duties, with nearly half of sandwich caregivers saying they noticed an increase in their average caregiving time for children (47 per cent) or adults (46 per cent).

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