The largest categories of American’s fastest-growing jobs offer some of the country’s lowest wages and weakest benefits.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an increase of 1.2 million jobs for home health and personal care aides over the next ten years. By 2026, the home health aide industry will add 425,600 positions, an increase of 46.7 percent, with a median annual wage today of $22,600, while the personal care aides who handle mostly domestic tasks earn about $21,000 per year. Their numbers are expected to climb by 754,000 jobs or 37.6 percent. Roughly nine in ten of these positions are held by female caretakers with nearly half identifying as black or Hispanic.
The workers have one central mission: They care for people who struggle to care for themselves.
Many live in poverty and most have little to no paid days off. They are typically the breadwinners in low-income households; what they earn makes it hard for them to pay the rent or get an education to move into better paying jobs, according to Ariane Hegewisch, labor economist at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Her research found that fifty-five percent of home health aides subsist on incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line and tend to rely on public benefits, lacking the resources to set their children on an economically better path.
The demand for home health and personal care aides will continue to skyrocket as the population ages. Demetra Nightingale, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, stated: “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 added: “We need to provide career ladders for people who can meet the growing demand.”
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.