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The ‘sandwich’ generation: older women and their role at work and home

by on August 27, 2013

Many papers over the weekend featured articles on a recent report from the ippr entitled Sandwich generation: the role of older women at work and home. This examines the experience of older women in today’s society, in particular the trend towards working longer and the gender imbalance in caring responsibilities. Older women can end up caring for both grandchildren and parents, becoming the ‘sandwich’ generation. These women are more likely than older men to leave work for this reason.

Other key findings include:
• Whilst employment rates have increased for older women since the recession, unemployment among this group increased from 2.4% in 2008 to 3.6% in 2012. Long-term unemployment increased significantly over the same period, from 31 to 45% between 2008 and 2012. This can lead to a scarring effect – the return to work tends to become increasingly difficult the longer a person is out of work.
• There have been changes in the patterns of ‘breadwinning’ within households with the number of ‘maternal breadwinners’ (working single mothers and working mothers who earn as much as or more than their partner) increasing over recent years.
• There has been a rise in the proportion of working mothers aged over 45 who are breadwinning: from 23% in 1997 to 37% in 2011.

The report calls for more support for older women who wish to remain in the workplace and for (non-gendered) grandparent leave. This has been widely reported in the media as a call for ‘granny leave’ (as here in The Independent and here in the Mail Online). Which rather reinforces the social norm that the report was examining in the first place…

A copy of the ippr report can be downloaded from this link.

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