Wages Drop for Personal Care Aides in 16 States, Reach Poverty Level

Declining wages for personal care aides (PCAs) have dipped below the poverty level in two-thirds of states, motioning for serious changes to be made to the fastest growing occupation in the county, according to an annual analysis from the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI).

In 2011, the national average hourly wage for PCAs was $9.49, what PHI notes as an increase by less than one percent since 2010. Last year also marked wage declines in 16 states, with as many as 33 states reporting average PCA wages falling bellow 200% of the Federal Poverty Level of $10.47/hour.

Over a 10-year period from 2001 to 2011, 41 states showed a decline in real median PCA wages adjusted for inflation, as reported in the PHI State Chart Book on Wages for Personal Care Aides. 

Some states were hit harder than others, notes PHI’s Chart Book, as ten states fell by at least 10%. Hawaii and Rhode Island fell by more than 20%. 

Much of PCA’s strife arises from exclusion under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Since 1974, PCAs have been exempt from minimum wage and overtime protections, their services deemed “companionship exemption.” 

In July, thousands of low-wage workers participated in a nationwide “Day of Action,” lobbying to raise the federal minimum wage requirement, but according to PHI, even if they had succeeded, the nation’s 2.5 million home care workers would not benefit. 

A change will need to happen, urges PHI, as last year there were 820,600 PCAs employed by home care agencies. The figure is only expected to grow by 71% over the decade, creating an additional 602,000 PCA jobs by 2020, notes PHI. 

“The economic security of hundreds of thousands of caregivers who make it possible for others to live independently is at stake,” said Dorie Seavey, PHI director of policy research. “It will be very difficult for our country to meet the rapidly growing demand for personal assistance workers without improving these wages.”

Written by Jason Oliva