While this year’s presidential election has moved far beyond what may be considered normal for a campaign season, the way politicians discuss labor markets still doesn’t give due credit to the growing home health care workforce and other industries, according to a recent story from New York Magazine.
Simply, the presidential nominees still focus predominantly on manufacturing, despite the fact that other growing labor forces may make us the ‘United States of Home Health Aides’ in the coming years, the article argues.
Nostalgia in the News
While candidates may score political points by giving factory workers attention, the real conversation should be directed toward helping everyday workers—who are more likely in fast food or home health care. As the workforce changes, nostalgic politics stay the same.
“There’s nothing new about nostalgia in politics,” writes Binyamin Appelbaum in New York Magazine. “American presidential candidates spent the better part of the 20th century promising to help family farmers in the face of urbanization. Now they promise to help factory workers in the face of globalization.”
Republican nominee Donald Trump has kept manufacturing as a “signature issue,” while Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has set a much broader economic agenda but still places many of her plans within the context of a factory, the article states. Yet this focus is at odds with the fact that American manufacturing may never come back, and economic “revival” could lie in the service economy.
The nostalgic feeling is very much related to the fact that the boom of American manufacturing after World War II brought prosperity and helped strengthen the middle class. Over the years, manufacturing jobs have largely been replaced by automation, and new workforces like home care aides have started to appear in large numbers. For example, there were 64,00 steelworkers in America last year, but 820,000 home health aides, the article states, citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Soon, we will be living in the United States of Home Health Aides, yet the candidates keep talking about steelworkers,” the article reads.
But America’s good old manufacturing days remains center stage on the political campaign, even as other workforces continue to swell. Indeed, the health care industry has been a leading job creator, adding 445,000 jobs over the past 12 months as of September, according to the Department of Labor, with 33,000 positions added in September alone.
Instead of focusing on steelworkers and factory workers, why aren’t politicians focusing on bettering the sectors where more jobs currently exist, the article asks.
A Low Profile
Both the Republican and Democratic parties have directly addressed home health care in their platforms in their own ways, from increasing minimum wages to expanding tax credits, and promising to make home care a public policy priority.
“But no one is basing an entire presidential campaign around ideas like this,” the article argues. “…The enduring political focus on factory workers partly reflects the low profile of the new working class.”
While there have been some major successes from the home care advocate side, including recent decisions to expand overtime and minimum wage protections to home health care workers, as well as higher hourly wages in select cities across the country, the workforce still isn’t recognized in the election comparative to its size and scale. And candidates aren’t putting these issues at the top of their agendas.
Lost jobs in manufacturing is a talking point Republican nominee Donald Trump has seized, but the rhetoric doesn’t match the current economics.
“They are now caregivers, retail workers and customer-service representatives,” the article says of Donald Trump’s supporters who perhaps once worked in the old workforce. “When will they start to demand that candidates address the lives they actually lead?”
Written by Amy Baxter