NELP reports benefits of raising home care industry wages
Stephon Johnson | 3/5/2015, 10:25 a.m.
According to a new report by the National Employment Law Project, paying workers in the home care industry $15 an hour would add $6.6 billion in activity to the economy—not to mention adding $16.5 billion in the pockets of workers.
Titled “Giving Caregivers a Raise: The Impact of a $15 Wage Floor in the Home Care Industry,” the report states that a pay increase would create up to 50,000 jobs outside of the home care industry because home care workers are, according the NELP, likely to immediately spend the additional money. The report also shows that the home health industry has grown 48 percent in the past decade, but the real hourly income for home care workers has declined 6 percent.
The report states that if home care salaries were adjusted along with executive salaries, the average worker would’ve made $49,000 in 2013, but many workers live below the poverty line, making an average of $18,000 annually. Women make up 89 percent of workers in the industry.
“Home care plays a crucial role in the nation’s economic future,” said Sarah Leberstein, senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, in a statement. “It is far from the only low-paying sector of the American economy, but its role is significant because home care is growing five times faster than any other industry in America, and it is one of the top employers of women. Higher wages in home care could drive a more broadly shared recovery, helping millions move into the middle class and boosting the economy.”
NELP’s report comes just as home care workers announced last week that they would hold town hall meetings around the country with elected officials, community leaders and clergymen as they begin their “Fight for $15.”
“We work hard to care for seniors and people with disabilities, but too often we are not paid enough to provide basic needs like food, clothing and rent for our own families,” said Lynette Reece, a home care worker of 22 years from Washington, D.C., in a statement. “When we get $15 in our paychecks, we’ll have more money to spend in our communities, lifting the entire economy.”
More than 2 million home care workers provide support services such as dressing, toileting and preparing meals for the elderly and people with disabilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States will need 1 million new home care workers by 2022.
Irene Tung, senior policy researcher at the NELP, said in a statement that the country needs to move quickly to help home care workers and, in turn, help the elderly.
“America is facing a care crisis, and unless we transition the fast-growing home care industry to a more stable, higher wage staffing model, we won’t be able to meet the long-term needs of both the care giving workforce and our aging population,” said Tung. “Paying home care workers $15 will help stabilize a workforce that growing numbers of Americans will be counting on to deliver dependable, quality care in the years and decades to come.”