Re­port finds fastest-grow­ing jobs of­ten come with low pay

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE -

The largest two cat­e­gories of Amer­ica’s fastest­grow­ing 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 gov­ern­ment 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 nine in 10 care­taker po­si­tions are held by fe­males. 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 lit­tle to no paid days off.

“They’re typ­i­cally the bread­win­ners in low-in­come house­holds,” said Ari­ane Hegewisch, a la­bor econ­o­mist at the In­sti­tute for Women’s Pol­icy Re­search who co-wrote a study last year about lowwage 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 the District, 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.

File photo Home-health aides, which are among the fastest-grow­ing jobs in the na­tion, fre­quently of­fer low pay and mea­ger ben­e­fits.

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