Wages appear stagnant for home care workers and nursing assistants, despite their essential role in caring for the nation’s skyrocketing older population.
A new report from PHI International shows that wages for home care workers and nursing assistants in nursing homes remain low and that many of these individuals live in poverty. “Our research continues to show that despite their profound value to older people and people with disabilities nationwide, direct care workers struggle with low-paying jobs that threaten the stability of this sector,” said Jodi M. Sturgeon, PHI president. The data shows that the nearly 2.3 million U.S. home care workers earn an average $11.52 an hour and $16,200 per year, and 1 in 6 of these individuals lives in poverty. Wages for nursing assistants in nursing homes are slightly higher, with an average hourly rate of $13.38 and annual earnings of $22,000. However, 13% of nursing home workers live below the federal poverty line.
Among other findings:
- About 9 in 10 home care workers and nursing assistants are women; more than half (52% and 57%, respectively) are people of color; and 31% and 21%, respectively, are immigrants.
- 43% of home care workers are between the ages of 45 and 64; 32% of nursing assistants are between ages 45 and 64.
- 62% of home care workers work full time, and 48% live in low-income households.
- 81% of nursing assistants work full time, and 44% live in low-income households.
- 53% of home care workers and 36% of nursing assistants rely on some type of public assistance.
- About half of home care and nursing home workers have completed no formal education beyond high school.
- Home care workers constitute 51% of the total direct care workforce in the U.S. Home care jobs are predominantly government-funded.
- Nursing assistants comprise 13% of the total direct care workforce and over one-third of the nursing home workforce.
- The home care workforce has more than doubled in size over the past 10 years (from nearly 899,000 in 2008 to almost 2.3 million in 2018). At the same time, the number of nursing assistants in nursing homes declined from 599,350 in 2008 to 581,140 in 2018.
“We need to strengthen this workforce through higher compensation, improved training opportunities and career paths, and a meaningful investment in all aspects of this sector—from data collection systems to recruitment and retention interventions and much more,” Sturgeon noted.