EBRI Issue Brief

The Changing Environment of Work and Family

Jun 1, 1993 28  pages


  • The steady influx of women in the work force and the accelerating rate of increase in the population aged 65 and over have encouraged government and work place policies to help families resolve work-family conflicts. More than 57 percent of all women with children under age 6 are currently in the labor force compared with 12 percent in 1950. Between 1980 and 1991, the percentage of the population over age 65 increased by more than 24 percent, compared with an 11 percent increase for the total population.
  • Work disruptions are prevalent among parents employed outside the home. In a Census Bureau study of the nearly 19 million employed women with children under 15 years of age, 4.4 percent reported that they lost time from work in the previous month because of a failure in their child care arrangement.
  • Although the conflicts and complications between work and the demands of aging relatives are similar to those associated with dependent children, the need for elder care may be sudden and the costs less predictable than those for child care.
  • Employers are increasingly offering programs that address emergency child care for workers whose regular arrangements have failed. Claims for a positive cost/benefit from this type of support system are based on the avoidance of lost productivity due to worker absence.
  • The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is available to workers with earned incomes below $23,050 who have a qualified child and file a joint or head of household income tax return. In an effort to offset the proposed new energy taxes, President Clinton supports an expansion of the EITC.
  • Under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, effective August 5, 1993, private-sector employers with 50 or more employees and most public-sector employers will be required to grant an eligible employee up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, with guaranteed reemployment, for a serious medical condition of the employee or the employee's spouse, child, or parent, or to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.
  • A Department of Labor study of 452 collective bargaining agreements, each covering 1,000 or more workers, that were in effect July 1, 1990 or later found that slightly more than 50 percent contained one or more work and family provisions.
  • While employers have been providing benefits for traditional families, societal changes are challenging employers to provide benefits for nontraditional families. These families include unmarried cohabiting heterosexual or homosexual couples and their dependent children.