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National Caregivers Day: Caregiving among youth in Canada

February 12, 2024, 11:00 a.m. (EST)

The first Tuesday of April is National Caregivers Day in Canada. On this day, we honour and celebrate people in Canada who provide personal care, physical and/or emotional support to those in need. Caregivers make a difference in the lives of many people across the country. The support they provide contributes to a better quality of life for those they are caring for. 

The role of a caregiver takes many forms, from professional health care workers to unpaid caregivers who provide support to a family member or friend in need. According to the 2018 General Social Survey data on caregiving in Canada, one in four Canadians aged 15 and older have provided some form of care for people with a long-term health condition, a disability or problems related to aging.

About one in five youth are caregivers 

Many Canadians, including youth, play a central role in providing care to family members or friends. In 2018, about 19% (1.5 million) of youth aged 15 to 30 provided care or help to family members or friends with a long-term condition, a physical or mental disability, or problems related to aging.

In the case of youth, the proportion who provide care was similar among men (21%) and women (18%), but caregiving activities varied by gender. For example, among young caregivers, men were more likely than women to undertake house maintenance and outdoor work as part of their caregiving work (70% versus 39%). 

On the other hand, young women were more likely than young men to participate in household work activities such as meal preparation, house cleaning or laundry (62% versus 46%) or scheduling and coordinating appointments for the care receiver (21% versus 10%).

Most young caregivers provide care and support to their grandparents

In 2018, one-third of all youth caregivers provided care primarily to grandparents in the 12 months preceding the survey. This was followed by caring primarily for parents (31%); for friends, colleagues or neighbours (19%); and for other family members (12%).

It is important to note that these data were collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in 2020. Due to public health restrictions and isolation measures, many young caregivers who helped grandparents outside of their household may not have been able to provide care as usual. At the same time, youth providing care to parents in their home may have seen an increase in care responsibilities, given the possible lack of outside support.

Population aging in Canada continues to put pressure on health and home care services, and the pandemic has shown the importance of the care economy to the health, well-being, and economic prosperity of Canadians.

Honouring the strength and dedication of caregivers

While young caregivers share many similarities with older caregivers, they are also a unique group since they are at a stage in their lives where they have not yet necessarily solidified their life plans and choices.

Caregiving can be time-consuming and could potentially interfere with education, work or leaving home, but it can also be a positive experience, providing a sense of giving back to a loved one and strengthening the relationship between the caregiver and care receiver.

National Caregiver Day is an opportunity to recognize every person, at any age, who is taking on a caregiver role and the important work that they are doing to support the people around them.

Understanding and recognizing the care economy's contribution to Canada's economy as a whole and how it affects individuals and the broader society is also important. 

For more information on Canada’s care economy, see the results from the sixth cycle of the Canadian Social Survey, which gathered data from July 25 to August 28, 2022. The results highlight the experiences and challenges faced by those who provided care to children and to care-dependent adults in the 12 months prior to the survey, with a particular focus on unpaid care.

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