Invisible, unpaid, mostly female – and essential

Invisible, unpaid, mostly female – and essential

By Dian Cohen


Unpaid caregivers are people who help look after family members or friends who need looking after — seniors, children or adults with physical, intellectual, developmental disabilities or mental illness.

Lots of us are caregivers – we devote more than 6 billion unpaid hours each year to giving care. We put in three hours of care to every one hour that the system pays for.  We provide care equivalent to 2.8 million full-time paid care providers each year.

The fact that we are unpaid has not prevented us from being studied. According to the Canadian Centre for Caregiving Excellence (CCCE), “caregiving is the largest part of Canada’s health and social care systems. It bridges the major gap between medical practitioners, social services systems and care recipients.” If we were paid going rates, our economic value would be well over $100 billion in 2022. That’s as big as the value of the entire retail sector.

These statistics are for caregivers alone, not the value of all unpaid work at home. Statistics Canada measures that and comes up with a number that’s 10 times higher — it includes all the stuff that we all do for ourselves and our nuclear families like preparing meals; washing the car; doing laundry, ironing, folding and mending; gardening and cutting the grass; shopping and household planning.

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