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The Demand Grows for More Home Health Aides

Needs of aging boomers may influence the debate on immigration limits

Home Health Aide Shortage

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Home health aide is among the five fastest growing jobs.

The number of home health aides needed in the United States is projected to increase by 46.7 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to recently released government statistics. Because many such workers are immigrants, the growing need is likely to influence ongoing debates over proposals to sharply limit the number of legal newcomers to the country.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) latest figures indicate there were 911,000 home health aides in the country in 2016. Looking a decade into the future, BLS projects a need for 1,337,000 aides, as the huge boomer generation ages and increasingly requires assistance. Home health aide is among the five fastest growing jobs.

The Migration Policy Institute think tank has calculated that about a quarter of home health aides are immigrants, who make up a much smaller portion of the overall workforce.

In general, the job requires few skills and pays modestly, key factors for immigrants trying to break into the workforce. According to the University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies, a home health aide made an average of $23,300 in 2015, and few get health or other benefits. Less-skilled personal and home-care aides, who deal with non-health-related matters, have an average wage of $15,800 annually.

Joanne Spetz, director of the Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care at the University of California, San Francisco, told Politico that there are “not a lot of individuals or families [able] to pay much above minimum wage.”