Over 90 percent of domestic workers and 60 percent of home care workers in New York City earn less than $25,000 a year, according to a new report from the Alliance for a Greater New York. Even worse, nearly 40 percent of domestic workers and 30 percent of home care workers earn less than $15,000.
The group surveyed more than 1,200 caregivers, people who receive care, and family care providers in the city. When asked about their top priorities for care, the majority of all groups ranked raising the wages of home care workers at the top. A majority also supported ensuring health care access and better quality training.
The home care system in New York City employs 155,000, and one in five adult New Yorkers is a care giver. Those numbers will only grow, however, as Baby Boomers age and life expectancy rises. The report notes that close to 1 million New Yorkers could need home care over the next few decades. Thus these jobs will be “the single biggest driver of employment in the city in the coming years,” it says.
That picture holds true for the country overall. Nearly 2.5 million people are home care workers, making it one of the largest occupations, and that number is expected to grow by 70 percent by 2020. Yet wages are generally very low. Nearly 40 percent of these workers make so little that they turn to public benefits to get by.
Part of the reason they pay so little is that these workers are excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime protection laws. A loophole called the “companionship exemption” has been so broadly interpreted as to deny home care workers these basic rights. While President Obama pledged to undo this loophole in December 2011, it has been delayed multiple times and is now “stuck down the regulatory ‘rabbit hole,’” according to a regulatory watchdog group.