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Does Unpaid Caregiving Erode Working Hours Among Middle-Aged Chinese Adults?

Background: Middle-aged adults are commonly confronted with the burden of paid work and multiple caregiving roles. Objectives: This paper examines the relationship between weekly hours of unpaid caregiving and hours of work using data from the baseline survey of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study. Methods: The analysis was conducted on a nationally representative sample of 3645 working-age Chinese adults aged 45–60 years who were not farming and had a young grandchild and/or a parent/parent-in-law. For women and men separately, we combined the use of a Heckman selection procedure and instrumental variables to estimate the relationship between weekly caregiving hours and hours of work. A caregiving threshold was also identified for women and men separately to allow for the testing of a kink and/or a discontinuity in this relationship. Results: We found that for women, their working hours were initially unrelated to hours of caregiving before the threshold of 72 caregiving hours per week; then, their working hours experienced an almost two-fold increase at the caregiving threshold before falling by 2.02 percent for each additional hour of caregiving beyond the threshold. For men, their hours of work fell by 2.74 percent for each hourly increment in caregiving. Although a caregiving threshold of 112 h was identified for men, there was insufficient evidence for a statistically significant kink or discontinuity in this relationship. Conclusions: These findings provide support for a range of fiscal and human resource policies that target employed family caregivers in order to advance their well-being while also maintaining their work productivity.

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