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Balancing Work and Caregiving for Children, Adults, and Elders.

Balancing Work and Caregiving for Children, Adults, and Elders. By Margaret B. Neal, Nancy J. Chapman, Befit Ingersoll-Dayton, and Arthur C. Emlen. Family Caregiver Applications Series, Vol. 3. Newbury Park, CA, Sage Publications, Inc., 1993. 292 pp., $42.95, hardcover, $21.95, paper.

The relationship between work and family is of much interest to researchers, employers, unions, and policymakers, as well as to families. One manifestation of that interest is the Family and Medical Leave Act, which became law earlier this year. Other evidence includes a growing literature on family and work issues. Balancing Work and Caregiving for Children, Adults, and Elders is a useful addition to that literature for academics and policymakers.

This book provides excellent documentation-from an extremely comprehensive empirical study by the authors and an exhaustive review of previous research--for the need for more extensive support for employee caregivers. In the study, nearly 10,000 employees, caregivers and noncaregivers, working for 33 employers were asked about caregiving.

The study identifies different types of dependent care, and analyzes the demands associated with each. It defines four caregiver roles: children under 18; adults with disabilities; frail elderly people; and multiple caregiving roles. Differentiating among caregiving roles enables the authors to analyze how employees' needs differ according to their roles.

One question the study investigates in detail is whether caregiving has an impact on employee absenteeism and stress. The authors found that it affects both. Employees who care for dependents in all three categories suffered the highest levels of absenteeism and stress, followed by those caring for adults with disabilities and children. Employees with only one caregiving role were less affected. However, of the employees with only one caregiving role, those caring for children had the most stress and absenteeism.

The authors conclude from these results that many employees would benefit from assistance in balancing work and family, but that some are more in need of assistance than others. For example, such interventions would be particularly helpful to employees with multiple caregiving roles.

The book also discusses possible employer responses to work and family conflicts. Employers can have supportive policies and benefit programs, including flexible work scheduling, cafeteria benefits, information and referrals, counseling, and direct care. Some employers have extensive programs, but those employers are in the minority.

Although the authors present a strong rationale for employers assisting employees in balancing work and family roles, they recommend that the responsibility be shared by families, employers, and the community. Their recommendations include family-friendly policies such as improving employment conditions for dependent care providers, changes in the eligibility criteria for dependent-care tax credits to make caregivers more accessible, and modification of the hours of schools, and health and social service systems.

The issues addressed in the book are clearly laid out. The empirical work is sophisticated and provides important information. It also presents suggestions about how employers and communities can provide assistance.

Unfortunately, the authors fall to raise several trends that present profound implications for employer and community involvement in family and work issues. One is the ongoing downsizing of many large employers. This is important because, as the authors note, large employers are more likely than smaller ones to provide extensive benefits. Additionally, many employers are reducing benefits to control costs and increasing the use of temporary workers who typically have few, if any, benefits. Trends in the public sector also are important. Most cities and many States are straggling to provide the most basic services, as is the Federal Government.

These factors suggest that because of the current economic and political climate, significant increases in employer or community support for dependent care are unlikely. Although the book does not address these issues, it makes clear that dependent care is an increasingly important issue. It also provides information that is potentially useful in an environment with scarce resources in which priorities must be set and hard choices made.
COPYRIGHT 1993 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Koziara, Karen Shallcross
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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