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Report: Immigrant Home Care Workers Help Solve Labor Shortage, But Face Few Paths to Citizenship

As Congress digs into creating an improved immigration system, a report released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), in cooperation with Caring Across Generations, identifies solutions for increasing access to visas for immigrant in-home care workers.
Feb 11, 2013

 

Washington, DC—As Congress digs into creating an improved immigration system, a report released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), in cooperation with Caring Across Generations, identifies solutions for increasing access to visas for immigrant in-home care workers. Based on extensive research and expert consultations, Increasing Pathways to Legal Status for Immigrant in-Home Care Workers offers options for visa reform that include comprehensive immigration reform.

Immigration solutions outlined in the report include provisional visas for immigrants that meet certain criteria, as well as a policy model that allows states and the federal government to share authority for selecting economic immigrants to the United States.

The authors also cite comprehensive immigration reform as a viable solution to solving the care work crisis, noting that any reform of the visa system must also be accompanied by policy changes to improve job quality for in-home care workers.

As the Baby Boom generation ages (every 8 seconds another American turns 65), women immigrant
in-home care workers are filling a gap in home care labor for the elderly. But lack of legal immigration status leaves many vulnerable to low wages and poor working conditions. According to IWPR’s analysis, the median weekly earnings for all female in-home care workers are $308, compared with $560 for all female workers in the U.S. workforce.

“Improving access to legal immigration for care workers increases their job mobility, as well as their opportunities for education and training,” said Cynthia Hess, co-author of the report, Increasing Pathways to Legal Status for Immigrant in-Home Care Workers. “This, in turn, improves the level of care being offered to older Americans, the chronically ill, and those living with disabilities,”

IWPR’s analysis shows that in the United States:

  • Immigrants make up a disproportionate share of the in-home health care workforce at 28 percent.
  • 90 percent of in-home health care workers are women and 56 percent are from a minority racial or ethnic group.
  • One in five immigrant direct care workers are undocumented.

By 2018, the direct care workforce is expected to number more than 4 million positions, an expansion of 1.1 million workers since 2008. The occupations of home health aides and personal care aides are expected to grow at the fastest rates.

Visas that allow for job mobility increase the chances that immigrant workers will enjoy jobs with fair wages and good working conditions, circumstances that would benefit immigrant workers and their families, as well as those who are receiving care.

IWPR’s upcoming second report in this series, Improving Career Opportunities for Immigrant Women In-Home Care Workers, offers several solutions to meeting the training needs of immigrant in-home care workers.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies. IWPR is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that also works in affiliation with the women's studies, and the public policy and public administration programs at The George Washington University.
www.iwpr.org

Caring Across Generations is a campaign dedicated to transforming long-term care to ensure quality care and support and a dignified quality of life for all Americans. By transforming long-term care, our goal is to improve access to, and the affordability of, care and support services while creating new, quality jobs in home care.
www.caringacrossgenerations.org

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