Report: CA’s Unpaid Caregivers Contribute 4 Billion Hours per Year

Advocates Press for Improvements to Paid Leave
A new report found nationally, the estimated economic value of family caregivers' unpaid contributions in 2021 was $600 billion. Photo Credit: Evrymmnt / Adobe Stock

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

Some 4.4 million family caregivers in California provide more than four billion hours of uncompensated care each year; work worth about $81 billion, according to a new report.

Researchers from AARP also found the value of those unpaid contributions has gone up by $18 billion since 2019.

Donna Benton, research associate professor in the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California, said caregivers dedicate, on average, more than 18 hours a week.

“None of us anticipate how difficult it can be to work with medications, physicians and nurses — and appointments and transportation — and fighting social services, and understanding limited income,” Benton outlined.

California has a network of 11 taxpayer-funded Caregiver Resource Centers to ease the burden with legal services, case management, family consultation and education programs. Groups like AARP and the California Coalition on Family Caregiving advocate for the state’s caregivers in Sacramento.

California lawmakers are currently considering two bills to improve the state’s paid family leave program. Assembly Bill 518 would allow family-of-choice caregivers, not just relatives, to take job-protected, paid time off to care for a loved one.

Benton noted it is particularly important to members of the LGBTQ community, who may not have children or other immediate relatives to care for them.

“And you would want them to be there to care to help you, but they can’t, because the law doesn’t allow that,” Benton explained. “It is very important that we have more choice, because family structures are different. But also, the best care is provided by somebody who knows you and wants to be there for you.”

Advocates are also pressing for passage of state Senate Bill 616, which would expand paid sick leave from three days to seven.