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Who are home health aides? 90% women, 50% minorities, 40% on Medicaid and food stamps.
It's the job of the future! And it's terrible! It's low-wage, low-tech, long hours, in most cases it's not covered by minimum wage or overtime protections, and it's projected to grow by 70 percent between 2010 and 2020. That's right: It's home health care work.
The average hourly wage is just $9.70 an hour, according to the Labor Department.

For those in the industry who work full-time, this amounts to roughly $20,000 a year. Many health care aides only work part-time though—and they do not receive benefits.

Under these conditions, it's no surprise then that about 40% of home aides rely on public assistance, such as Medicaid and food stamps, just to get by.

Oh, and it's common for home health care aides, like other domestic workers, to be paid less than minimum wage. The industry that exists to skim profits off the hard, low-wage labor of this overwhelmingly female, majority minority, heavily immigrant workforce insists that things couldn't be any different, that if home health care workers got overtime, their hours would be cut, leaving them taking home even less than their current poverty income and the disabled and elderly people they care for vulnerable and without adequate care. Which is one of those signs that maybe this is an industry that needs to be radically rethought. Because "this is a needed and important job" and "this job is only worth poverty wages" should be mutually exclusive statements.

Besides which, when 40 percent of people in a given job are on Medicaid or food stamps, taxpayers are covering part of the wages those people should be being paid. It's just that they should get that money—which they have earned, and then some—in their paychecks and on their benefit statements, not as public assistance subject to the constant attacks of Republican politicians and requiring the work of applying and proving they're eligible. And when this is the fastest-growing job in our economy, and the Obama administration's attempts to make it subject to minimum wage and overtime protections are met with fierce opposition, that should be a concern to everyone who has to work for a living. Because don't think it won't drag other jobs down with it.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 01:11 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos Economics, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Daily Kos.

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