America's Hottest Job Pays $9.70 an Hour

Home health care aides are in high demand, but face many problems

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 11, 2013 1:23 PM CDT | Updated Mar 16, 2013 8:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – The good news for a struggling economy: One home health aide company plans to hire 45,000 aides this year, which should give you an idea of how quickly the business is growing. The not-so-good news: Average hourly pay for a position as an aide, currently the fastest-growing job in America according to Labor Department stats, is just $9.70, CNNMoney reports. What does the job involve? The caregivers, who number almost 2 million so far and are mostly women and minorities, do everything from cooking and cleaning to bathing and changing bedpans in-home for elderly and disabled people. And, thanks to an obscure provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act, they're just like babysitters in the eyes of the law.

That means that in addition to making about $20,000 a year if they work full-time (many are part-time) and receiving no benefits, they're also exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime laws—and about 25% of them make less than minimum wage. Not surprisingly, 40% of aides rely on Medicaid, food stamps, or other forms of public assistance. The number of in-home health workers is expected to swell 70% between 2010 and 2020 thanks to an aging population, and President Obama has been trying to change the law, but the industry says it has to keep the service affordable. "What you have is a situation here where the people that we count on to care for our families cannot take care of their own, and that's got to change," says the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

In this photo taken Friday, Sept. 3, 2010, home health aide Maria Fernandez, left, pours cereal for Herminia Vega, 83, right, as she performs household chores for Vega and her husband.
In this photo taken Friday, Sept. 3, 2010, home health aide Maria Fernandez, left, pours cereal for Herminia Vega, 83, right, as she performs household chores for Vega and her husband.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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