Nearly 2.1 million home care workers currently support seniors and people with disabilities in their homes and in community-based settings nationwide. With industry wages that have hardly risen in a decade, about 20% of these workers live in poverty, a point often tied to high turnover rates for home care agencies.
Bronx, New York-based research and consulting organization PHI highlighted wages for the direct care workforce in a new report released Aug. 31. In addition to showcasing wage information, the PHI report also touches on broader employment trends.
Long-term services are rapidly shifting from nursing homes and other institutional settings to individuals’ homes. As part of that shift, the home care workforce has more than doubled in size between 2007 and 2017.
Despite well-known recruiting and retention concerns, the workforce will have to keep growing, as the population of older adults is expected to skyrocket from 47.8 million people to a projected 88 million by 2050.
“The growing population of older adults drives unprecedented demand for home care workers,” Stephen Campbell, data and policy analyst at PHI, told Home Health Care News in an email. “We expect these trends to continue in the future.”
With a clear demand for home care workers in the years ahead, it has become all the more important to analyze wage rates and other employment trends.
In general, it appears that employers are struggling to keep up with the high labor demands. With a median hourly wage of $11.03 and inconsistent work hours, home care workers typically earn $15,100 annually, according to the PHI report.
“The poor quality of home care jobs — characterized by low wages, insufficient hours and high poverty rates — makes it hard to attract and retain workers at a time when we need them the most,” Campbell said.
Overall, the average wage rate has barely risen over the past 10 years for direct care workers.
Today, about one in five home care workers is living below the federal poverty line. More than half rely on some form of public assistance, according to PHI. National data shows that only 7% of all U.S. workers are below the federal poverty line.
Inflation-adjusted median hourly wages were $10.66 in 2007 compared to $11.03 in 2017. Personal care aide wages rose by $0.95 over the past decade, while home health aide and nursing assistant wages dropped by $0.11, according to PHI.
About two in five home care workers are part time employees.
Although recruitment and retention problems exist, home care is still one of the fastest growing occupations, and the home care industry is projected to add another 1 million jobs by 2026. That figure could change, however, as nine out of 10 workers in the sector are women between the ages of 20 to 64, and the workforce is seeing a decline in those numbers.
The decline in that particular demographic suggests the need to recruit new, non-traditional workers to the home care field, according to PHI. New pipelines of workers that aren’t women need to be investigated, such as the 2.2 million men that will join the labor force in the next 10 years, the PHI’s report suggests.
While people of color make up just over one-third of the total U.S. workforce, they comprise 60% of all home care workers, according to PHI. More than one-quarter of home care workers are born outside the United States, with 32% reporting that they speak English “not well” or “not at all.”
Half of home care workers have completed no formal education beyond high school.
Retention and turnover rates are closely tied to wages, but it can be difficult for agencies to increase pay when a large portion of their revenue comes from government sources and other payers. For example, payments from public programs — primarily Medicare or Medicaid — constituted 65% of the home health care services industry’s $77.6 billion annual revenue in 2016, according to PHI.
Written by Kaitlyn Mattson