The home care workforce and immigrants

Maids, house cleaners, child care workers, and personal aides – domestic workers, or the home care workforce — support the quality of life of middle class America. They are the face of foreign, and often unauthorized, workers the middle class depends upon enough to trust young children and the aged with.

In 2012, there 4.3 million persons were employed in these jobs, of which 32% were filled by foreign-born workers; in 2022, 5.2 million are projected to be employed. About 90% of job holders are female. Personal care aide jobs are increasing at an annual rate of 4.9%, which far exceeds the growth rate of any other major occupation.

Among the largest 23 jobs paying under $25,000 annually, personal care aide job growth through 2022 will be by far the largest – 500,000. The home care workforce in total will account for one of every three to five new jobs under $25,000, and may account for half the new jobs below $25,000 that are conventionally female-dominated.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance made these estimates in 2015 for domestic workers, based on interviews —

Percentage foreign born: 46%. In contrast, 16% of the entire workforce is foreign born. Of those foreign born what percentage undocumented: 47%. For the entire immigrant workforce, about one third are undocumented. Percentage Latino/a: 60%. In contrast, 16% of the entire workforce is Latino/Hispanic.

PHI defines the home care workforce somewhat differently than does the Alliance. PHI applies somewhat different job categories.

The Census estimated in 2012 that their annual income averaged $19,500. PHI estimates that the actual total annual income is closer to $13,500. The Alliance reported a gradient in pay, with citizens being paid $12 and hour vs. $10 an hour for foreign-born. PHI reported that in the past decade wages have stuck at $10 an hour. See this week’s New York Times article on personal aides to the aged.

The home care workforce is broadly excluded from non-wage work benefits and job protections. The Alliance reports at less than 9% work for employers who pay into Social Security. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 excluded domestic and farm workers from coverage by the act. That was partially corrected for domestic workers in 2013.

State workers’ compensation, labor protection and unemployment compensation programs originally excluded these workers.

Many home care workers do not qualify as “employees” so even if protections and benefits are extended, that will not affect many of these workers.

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