Bank of America Global Research projects that U.S. employment will increase by 6 million from 162.8 million jobs in 2019 to 168.8 million jobs in 2029, with the bulk of those new jobs involving human health and social work.
Six of the 10 fastest-growing jobs are in the health care space, and the spike in demand for home health and personal care aides signals the coming crisis of caregiving for the roughly 71 million Baby Boomers who are currently aged between 56 and 74.
A 2020 AARP report found that “more than 1 in 5 Americans (21.3%) are caregivers, having provided care to an adult or child with special needs at some time in the past 12 months.”
The demand for caretakers is particularly straining the capacities of women across America, many of whom are also bearing the brunt of child care amid the coronavirus pandemic and the relative lack of parental leave policies in the country.
“You see more and more women who are telling us that they have to leave their jobs because they can no longer actually balance both the needs of caring for a sick elderly parent or caring for kids who aren’t in school or are preschool age,” Tina Tchen, president and CEO of Time’s Up, told Yahoo Finance.
And the pay is low or nonexistent: Among the top 10 fastest-growing occupations, home health and personal care aides have the second-lowest median annual wage — and that doesn’t include caretakers looking after family members on top of additional jobs.
“Women are bearing the brunt of this caregiving crisis,” Tchen added. “This has gone on forever, but the pandemic has exacerbated it. So you see more women having to leave their jobs, even if they had a job that was either open for business or even remote working.”
‘We need to invest in caregivers’
BofA Global Research predicted that this decade will characterized by the growing “Care and Green Economy” across the country.
“Pink collar (nurses, carers, and health aides) and Green collar (solar engineers, wind technicians, and battery experts, etc.) are the new White- and Blue-collar professions,” the report stated. “We are strong believers in both because 1) they are high-quality jobs that offer long-term work stability; 2) they are hard to automate because they require strong emotional intelligence and dexterity; and 3) they are exposed to sectors that are well-positioned thematically, i.e. health care and renewables.”
Home health and personal care aides are a specific area expected to grow exponentially. BofA Global Research is predicting that the occupation will grow by 32.6% by 2029, with an employment change of 1,159,500 in that span of time.
If the workforce wants to attract more people to the field, according to Tchen, the job needs to pay more.
“We need to invest in caregivers,” Tchen said. “We need to invest in that workforce and that infrastructure because more and more are going to leave caregiving at some point in our lives, and we are going to need that support. It shouldn’t be something which, traditionally, we have done in the United States, which is to think that this is a problem that workers need to solve by themselves.”
To address this ever-growing need, some Democratic politicians have pushed for caretakers to be part of the infrastructure bill that President Biden is trying to pass through Congress, though the idea has been met with backlash from many Republicans arguing that it would make the definition of infrastructure too broad.
However, Tchen made the case that caregiving is just as crucial to helping the economy recover as are other parts of the labor market.
“When you invest in a caregiver, that caregiver is doing a job that allows somebody else to also go back into the economy and to stimulate the economy and be part of our recovery,” she said. “Building this infrastructure now is critically important.”
To address the financial strain related to providing time and services to others, President Biden’s stimulus bill expanded the Child and Dependent Care Credit which a person can file for if they hired a caretaker to look after either their children or their dependent who is either physically or mentally incapable of self-care. The credit ranges between $3,000-$6,000 depending on how many qualifying individuals there are.
And while the financial aid is welcome, it’s only a temporary fix for a longer-term issue that’s expected to only keep growing. Until the caretaker hiring boom occurs, the temporal and financial burden of caring for others will continue to disproportionately fall upon women.
Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @adrianambells and reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.