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REPORT: Latinos Comprise Large Percentage of the Direct-Care Workforce

February 16, 2012

The National Council of La Raza‘s (NCLA) February Latino Employment Report focuses on Latinos in the direct-care workforce and calls for revising the “companionship exemption” under the Fair Labor Standards Act in order to extend home care workers basic minimum wage and overtime protections.

Caring for Caregivers: Latinos in the Direct-Care Workforce” (pdf) reports that 15.4 percent — about 520,000 people — of the approximately 3.4 million direct-care workers in the United States is Latino.

It states that 23 percent of the direct-care workforce is foreign-born — compared to 15.8 percent of the general employee population — and notes that Latinos constitute almost half of the foreign-born workers in the U.S.

Latinos are more likely to be employed as personal care aides (17.6 percent) than home health, nurse, or psychiatric aides (14.7 percent), according to the report.

The reason for the disparity, the researchers suggest, is that more formalized training is required for home health, nurse, and psychiatric aides. Nearly half (49 percent) of Latino adults who are foreign-born and 31.2 percent who are native-born do not have a high school diploma, making the training for these higher-paying jobs more challenging.

Benefits of Industry Growth Not Passed on to the Workforce

Today, home health aides and personal care aides are, respectively, the third and fourth fastest-growing occupations in the nation (pdf) and among the top five occupations creating the largest number of jobs.

With the rising population of baby boomers, it is projected that the direct-care service industry will grow by 58 percent over the next decade — one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation.

The Latino Employment Report says that “while the home care industry will continue to see high growth and increasing revenue, the benefits of this growth are not passed on to the workforce.”

In particular, the report concludes that the “companionship exemption,” which excludes these workers from federal minimum wage and overtime protections, has taken a “direct toll” on the wages of personal care and home health aides.

NCLA encourages providers, recipients, and advocates of direct care to comment in support of the U.S. Department of Labor‘s proposed rule to revise the companionship exemption.

— by Deane Beebe

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