The caregiver shortage crisis could actually be more severe than previously thought, presenting challenges—but also opportunities—for employers.
Based on projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a new report from the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) suggests that the direct care workforce will likely grow by 1.4 million jobs from 2016 to 2026. This is more than registered nurses and fast food workers combined, the second and third highest growth fields.
State-level trends are expected to be similar. From 2016 to 2026, the direct care workforce will add more new jobs than any other occupation in 38 states. The home care market will add more than 1 million jobs in that period. In California, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Vermont, personal care aides alone will be the largest occupation in 2026.
The report notes that the population of working-age adults aged 15 to 64 will remain relatively constant. However, while there are currently 32 working-age adults for every adult aged 85 and over, that number will drop to 12 by 2050. At the same time, labor force participation among women aged 20 to 64, the group that currently makes up most of the direct care workforce, will increase by only 2.1 million between 2016 and 2026.
The report cited BLS statistics showing that the long-term care industry will need to replace 6.4 million direct care workers from 2016 to 2026. This includes 3.6 million workers to replace those who will leave the labor force altogether and 2.8 million who will move into other occupations.
While these statistics suggest an enormous challenge for the post-acute and long-term care industry, the report authors indicate that the numbers should galvanize leaders in the industry. They say, “To reduce unnecessary turnover among direct care workers, the long-term care sector needs to improve the quality of direct care jobs through higher wages, better training, and opportunities for advancement, among other interventions.” The authors further suggest that employers consider expanding the labor pool via education campaigns to increase the profile of direct care workers, targeting new populations (such as men and older workers) for recruitment, and establishing partnerships with schools, churches, and other community entities.