Home care agencies typically charge more than $20 an hour for their services, but workers only make about half of that.
That’s according to a recent segment on Vice News, which highlighted the low wages that some home care workers earn in Georgia.
Though taking care of the elderly is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S., wages for home care workers and nursing assistants have either stagnated or barely matched inflation over the past decade, according to findings by the research and consulting organization Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI).
In Georgia, home care workers are the largest group of domestic workers, Vice reported. But, on average, they make about $21,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.This is only enough for rent and doesn’t account for food or utility bills, Jasmine Okokhere told Vice.
“We’re still barely making ends meet,” she said in the report.
However, home care workers have joined forces with other low-wage workers, including fast food and retail employees, to fight for a higher minimum wage, and legislation that explicitly includes domestic workers.
A bill introduced earlier this year by Democratic Georgia State Sen. Vincent Fort would raise Georgia’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $15 per hour and include domestic workers for the first time. By contrast, the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which allows collective bargaining for workers, excludes domestic workers specifically. Home care workers were only granted minimum wage and overtime protections in 2015 by the Department of Labor (DOL).
In the majority of the country, domestic workers don’t have the right to unionize, Vice noted.
While workers are fighting for higher wages, others say increasing these costs would upset the affordability of home care.
There are more than 1,000 home care agencies in Atlanta, which often have to compete on pricing, John Butler, chairman of the Atlanta Senior Care Network Niche, said in the Vice report. The Network is an organization that represents members of senior care service providers.
Agencies argue that they make little profit off the remaining service charges after paying workers, with their margins reduced after paying insurance, taxes and administrative costs.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would force home care providers to raise rates to remain in business, Butler said in the report.
“The alternative of simply paying them [workers] more per hour sounds great, except that the family is the one that has to pay it,” he told Vice.
Butler also argues the number of families who can afford to take such a hit is small. Additionally, he maintains that he does not hear “a systemic complaint that [workers] are not making enough money,” he told Vice.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance, which represents U.S. domestic workers, has heard the opposite, Vice said, and is currently pushing for a $15 per hour minimum wage for domestic workers in Georgia.
Watch the report:
Written by Maggie Flynn