Nicholas Craig column
Two annual events, the Easter holidays and the Chinese New Year, brought home to me the huge role grandparents play in today's economy.
North-East England and China share similar family values, and both cultures know how indispensable grandparents are to family and business life.
The unpaid army of grandparents was highly visible during the Easter holidays, with youngsters in tow at shops and visitor attractions throughout the region.
According to a survey by Age Concern, one in four grandparents is the main carer within a family, and grandparents spend on average about six and a half hours a week as substitute parents.
China's strong family-minded society traditionally celebrates the wisdom of the older generation.
The Chinese New Year is a time of reunion and thanksgiving, and in China the New Year's Day celebrations are strictly family affairs.
They gather for the important family meal, and at midnight the younger members of the family bow and pay their respects to their parents and elders.
Chinese business has thrived over the centuries in part because of the child-rearing role of grandparents, which has freed up parents' time to help them pursue careers.
In this region, thousands of grandparents step in willingly to provide the same results.
The value of childcare by UK grandparents has been calculated at over £1bn a year.
Yet the vast majority do it for no financial reward.
In the same way that volunteers keep a sector of business alive, grandparents offer a massive resource that goes largely unrecognised in business life.
Yet without it, thousands of young parents would be unable to afford the childcare necessary for them to return to work, and we would miss out on the energy and talent of well-trained people.
Grandparents are an under-rated asset in the national economy, who deserve an allowance from the government in recognition of their contributions to family, community and UK business.
In China and in North-East England, grandparents have been the backbone of two strong societies for hundreds of years. However much the two cultures change, I believe the security and order this emphasis on community brings will continue to be celebrated for generations to come.
Nicholas Craig is a partner at Watson Burton LLP.