The sandwich generation is growing and employers need to understand it.
A growing number of people will be part of the “sandwich generation”, looking after elderly relatives and children and face using up many of their savings to do so and needing more flexible working to balance work and caring responsibilities, according to a recent report.
The report by the Social Market Foundation highlights the growing importance of intergenerational family assistance.
It says more people are looking after elderly relatives and/or children, despite greater geographical dispersal of the family and a growth in one-child families making it less likely parents live near adult children. It points out the implications for those in their 50s and 60s, what it calls the Skipped Generation and the In-Betweeners.
It says ‘the Skipped Generation’ in their middle years may see their hopes and expectations of receiving an inheritance or major gift thwarted as they spend money on their families and the government may need to look to steps to encourage greater pension saving.
‘In-betweeners’ in their 60s and living in four-generation families may find themselves facing triple pressures of continuing in work as the state pension age rises, caring for an elderly parent and providing grandparental childcare, it states. “Employment rights, flexible work and respite care are all likely to have to be revisited in the years ahead,” it says.
A poll for the report shows that more than three quarters of the population agree that ‘With people living longer, it is even more important that families stay connected across the generations’. In large part, says the report, this conviction appears to be based on altruistic desire to support other family members. Two thirds of the population see handing down money or assets as ‘part of the natural pattern of give and take across the generations’.
The proportion of the population that receive inheritances and gifts has grown over time, and the overall value of inheritances has increased. Housing assets comprise an increasing proportion of inheritances handed down and it points out that more people are looking to hand money down in methods other than simple bequests on death: 60% of adults agree with the statement that ‘It is better to give children money when they need it than to save it to leave as an inheritance’.
The report says living patterns of intergenerational families may diverge, with some intergenerational families co-residing, others geographically separated and a growing proportion growing old without children or grandchildren. This brings important implications for care and housing policy.
It says those coming up to retirement may struggle to balance the twin demands of younger family members needing support for major life events and living costs versus their own needs in retirement, particularly in light of new pension freedoms. It states: “Guidance, advice and financial products will increasingly have to recognise the range of demands on retirees’ resources as well as the assets at their disposal.”