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PHI Report: Direct-Care Workers Earn Near-Poverty Wages

March 2, 2011
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A new PHI analysis of the direct-care workforce finds that 46% of such workers depend on public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid, or other living assistance, with the median hourly wage for home health aides having declined over the past 9 years to under $8.00 (a number adjusted for inflation).

“The problematic quality of direct-care jobs continues to undermine America’s capacity to produce a caregiving workforce that can deliver the basic hands-on services and supports demanded by millions of elders and persons with disabilities needing assistance with basic daily activities and tasks,” said Dorie Seavey, PhD, PHI director of policy research.

In 2008, there were more than 3.2 million direct-care workers—nursing assistants, home health aides, and personal care aides. Direct-care workers provide an estimated 70% to 80% of the paid hands-on long-term care and personal assistance for elders and people living with disabilities, according to PHI.

Among the findings highlighted by the annual PHI analysis:

· Almost half (45%) of direct-care workers live in households earning below 200% of the federal poverty income level;

· In 2009, an estimated 900,000 direct-care workers did not have any health coverage;

· Less than half of direct-care workers (47%) had employer-sponsored healthcare coverage in 2009, down from 53% in 2008.

· The majority of direct-care workers are currently employed in home and community-based settings rather than nursing homes or other institutional settings. By 2018, home and community-based direct-care workers will outnumber facility workers by nearly two to one.

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Full report: PHI Facts 3: Who are Direct-Care Workers? (PDF format)

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