Low-wage jobs are grow­ing the fastest

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BUSINESSREPORT - By Danielle Pa­que­tte

The largest two cat­e­gories of Amer­ica’s fastest-grow­ing jobs of­fer some of the coun­try’s low­est wages and weak­est ben­e­fits.

Over the next 10 years, an­a­lysts ex­pect to see 1.2 mil­lion more jobs for home health and per­sonal care aides, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics. That’s more po­si­tions than the pro­jected job cre­ation in the eight other most rapidly grow­ing fields com­bined.

By 2026, the home health aide in­dus­try will add 425,600 po­si­tions, an in­crease of 46.7 per­cent, the gov­ern-

ment es­ti­mates show. The oc­cu­pa­tion’s me­dian an­nual wage to­day is $22,600.

The num­bers of per­sonal care aides, who han­dle mostly do­mes­tic tasks, mean­while, is ex­pected to climb by 754,000 jobs or 37.6 per­cent. They typ­i­cally make about $21,000 per year.

So­lar and wind jobs, which come with larger pay­checks, are pro­jected to grow by 105 per­cent and 96 per­cent, re­spec­tively, but the tiny fields will add just 17,400 new po­si­tions in the next decade, re­searchers pre­dict.

Roughly 9 in 10 care­taker po­si­tions are held by women. Nearly half iden­tify as black or His­panic.

Work­ers in th­ese roles share one cen­tral mis­sion: They care for peo­ple who strug­gle to care for them­selves. But many live in poverty, and most have few to no paid days off.

“They’re typ­i­cally the bread­win­ners in low­in­come house­holds,” said Ari­ane Hegewisch, a la­bor econ­o­mist at the In­sti­tute for Women’s Pol­icy Re­search who co-wrote a study last year about low-wage jobs filled by women. “But what they earn makes it hard for them to pay the rent, or get an ed­u­ca­tion to move into bet­ter pay­ing jobs, or look af­ter their chil­dren.”

Fifty-five per­cent of home health aides sub­sist on in­comes be­low 200 per­cent of the fed­eral poverty line, her re­search found. They tend to rely on pub­lic ben­e­fits, she said, and lack the re­sources to set their kids on an eco­nom­i­cally bet­ter path.

Hegewisch said pol­i­cy­mak­ers need to pay at­ten­tion to this grow­ing group of work­ers.

“If th­ese jobs work well, the over­all health sys­tem and so­cial care sys­tem can save a lot of money,” she said.

Hegewisch has pro­posed us­ing Medi­care dol­lars to sup­ple­ment care­givers’ wages, ar­gu­ing it would re­duce turnover and save the gov­ern­ment money by keep­ing the el­derly and the sick out of nurs­ing homes. Nurs­ing homes tend to be much costlier drains on the health sys­tem than home care.

Deme­tra Nightin­gale, a se­nior fel­low at the Ur­ban In­sti­tute, a left-lean­ing think tank in Washington, said de­mand for home health and per­sonal care aides will con­tinue to sky­rocket as the pop­u­la­tion ages.

“We have a lot of th­ese low-wage jobs, and we’re go­ing to need a lot of th­ese low-wage jobs in the fu­ture,” she said.

Pres­i­dent Trump has said he aims to ex­pand ap­pren­tice­ships in the United States, and Nightin­gale said she hopes to see sim­i­lar op­por­tu­ni­ties for do­mes­tic care­tak­ers. Los An­ge­les and Seat­tle both have ro­bust — and repli­ca­ble — paid train­ing pro­grams, she said.

“We need to pro­vide ca­reer lad­ders for peo­ple who can meet the grow­ing de­mand,” Nightin­gale said.

Ad­vo­cates for th­ese work­ers also push for rais­ing the min­i­mum wage and a na­tional paid parental leave plan, so that aides can af­ford to take time off to care for a sick child or re­cover af­ter a birth.

Ivanka Trump, ad­viser to the pres­i­dent, has pro­posed open­ing paid leave to low-in­come work­ers through the na­tion’s un­em­ploy­ment in­surance sys­tem, but the idea hasn’t gained trac­tion on Capi­tol Hill.

Luis Sinco / Los An­ge­les Times via Getty Images 2015

Hun­dreds of Los An­ge­les home care work­ers march for a higher min­i­mum wage, now $10.50 in Cal­i­for­nia.

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