Grandparenting and the club sandwich

An interesting piece in yesterday’s Financial Times on grandparents (in the main, grandmothers) who find themselves an essential part of their children’s (mainly daughters) childcare arrangements.  This is, often, at the expense of their own career, which may have just been taking off again.

The lead story (for those of you who aren’t behind the FT’s paywall) is about an accountant, Tracey Conway, who had moved up from 2 days a week to 5 days – and has now gone down again to help look after her grandson, as her daughter pursues her career at the bank.  She finds much to be happy about it, especially her strong link with the little boy, but it’s meant that her professional skills at yet again in semi-limbo.

The FT gives useful information on how grandparents can get leave for this kind of thing in various countries, and various organisations such as Santander.  In the UK the government recently ‘announced a plan’ to change the rules on parental leave so some of it can be transferred to grandparents.  It’s not clear if that plan will actually happen.   It has happened in Germany.

The impact of demography on skills is gradually attracting more attention.  A recent Institute of Directors report gives  much-needed plug for lifelong learning – hurrah.  It says:

“just 69 per cent of 50 to 64-yearolds today are in paid work compared to 83 per  cent of their younger counterparts. Ominously, by 2025 there will be 750,000 fewer people aged between 16 and 49, but 3.7 million more people aged between 50 and 64…. The UK economy will have to make adjustments to provide and then to capitalise upon a greater supply of educated older labour.”

The IoD report doesn’t mention that an increasing proportion of these will be well-qualified women, but I hope they’d see the logic of supporting grandparental leave.

The demographic reach goes further.  We know about the sandwich generation.   But the FT piece gives us a new variant:  the ‘club sandwich generation’ – signalling the growth of 4-generation families.  This gives rise to some fairly mind-boggling permutations, e.g. member of G2 looking after elderly member of G1 and at the same time G3’s small G4 member…


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