Quitting Jobs for Caregiving: Help Workers Balance Nursing Support and Employment

A situation in which workers in their prime have no choice but to leave their jobs to care for family members is detrimental not only for the workers themselves but also for society. The government and businesses need to help workers balance their jobs and nursing care.

According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, 106,000 people left their jobs to care for their families last year. Noticeable were those in their 40s and 50s, and many of them are believed to have been a pillar of their companies in managerial posts or as veteran employees.

Many said that they quit their jobs because their companies did not have a support system to help them balance work and family care, or the atmosphere made it difficult for them to use such systems as nursing care leave.

By 2025, all the baby boomers will have reached the age of 75 or older, and the number of people who need nursing care will continue to increase. At a time when the labor force is shrinking due to the aging of the population and the low birth rate, the situation in which people want to work but are unable to do so because of caring for family members is serious.

For companies in particular, securing manpower is an important management issue. Seriously addressing the issue of employees who provide nursing care for their families will also lead to the development of the companies themselves.

The number of people who work while providing nursing care has exceeded 3.6 million nationwide. It is necessary to check whether nursing care leave and other systems are being fully utilized by employees, including such people.

The law on childcare and caregiver leaves allows employees to take up to three months off from work to support family members. However, only 1.6% of employees who work while providing nursing care have actually taken the leave. Many are probably unaware of the system, too.

Companies should improve their consultation service for employees who face nursing care needs. An effective system would be one in which outside experts offer them advice.

The degree of burden placed on caregivers varies depending on whether they have family members who can cooperate with them, and on the physical and mental condition of the person being cared for, among other factors.

It is hoped that companies will establish a system that can deal with a wide variety of cases, such as allowing a range of flexible work styles including shorter working hours and telecommuting.

The nursing care industry offers various services, such as bathing assistance, meal delivery and housekeeping. But services are complicated and difficult to understand as whether they are covered by nursing care insurance depends on the plans.

It is important for the central and local governments to thoroughly explain to companies and caregivers the types of services available and how to use them.

Once caregivers quit their jobs, they may be financially impoverished, and both mentally and physically exhausted from being devoted to caregiving.

Caregivers themselves need to choose the services that best suit them and their families, and find a way to continue providing nursing care without quitting their jobs. It is also vital to discuss with family members, even before caregiving becomes necessary, what the family’s plan will be in the event of a necessity.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 5, 2023)