A graphic for the definition of the sandwich generation

Who are the Sandwich Generation and what’s the impact for them in the workplace?

This concept describes anyone who has caring responsibilities for two sets of dependants, both younger and older than them. Middle-aged adults often fall into this Sandwich Generation, faced with caring for their children and parents simultaneously. Specifically, the Sandwich Generation are those with parents over 65 and children under 18. These circumstances can be emotionally and financially challenging as the stress of caring for multiple family members, alongside navigating life and work, can become overwhelming. 

The Sandwich Generation phenomenon occurs more frequently in countries with an ageing population, which tend to be those with greater economic development. In these economies, individuals have children later in life when their parents are already older and closer to needing support. Research from the USA indicates that 47% of adults aged 40-59 have a parent older than 65 and are simultaneously supporting children, including young children and older adults who are still financially dependent on their parents. 

Caring responsibilities have a disproportionate impact on women. Research from the UK shows that women have a 50:50 likelihood of having caring responsibilities by age 46 – 11 years earlier than men. These circumstances create boundaries for women to their working patterns that hinder their pay and progression at work. 

Related Concepts

Marzipan Layer 

Related Research

To find out more about the barriers women face read ECC’s summary of the Government Equalities Office paper ‘Women’s Progression in the Workplace‘.

Related Resources

Explore ECC’s Work Family and You resource section, to learn more about navigating the challenges that working families face.

Click here to learn more about Women’s Development Programmes: 6 Lessons from Designing Women’s Development Programmes

Additionally, see ECC’s explainer on Boundaried Workers to understand the impact of caring responsibilities on careers.