The number of Iowans working as nursing assistants and other direct caregivers has grown 28% over the past decade. But a new report by the Iowa CareGivers Association finds those workers are among the lowest-paid in the state, with average earnings of $11.50 an hour. That’s almost three dollars less than the average wage for all Iowa jobs.
John Hale, a policy consultant with the association, says you just have to believe that that business model is not going to work, that there’s always going to be workers willing to work for low wages and benefits. Hale says that has worked but it’s not going to continue to work, or were not gonna have people go into these jobs.
Charles Bruner of the Child and Family Policy Center says that leaves many direct care workers heavily dependent on government services.
“The state through Medicare, Medicaid, and public health services is a very significant payer for these services and a regulator of the quality of care that’s provided…and should look at those wage, benefit and working condition issues,” Bruner says.
Bruner and other advocates for caregivers are calling for a variety of state and federal policies, including expanding tax credits and support services for low-income workers. They also warn the supply of available workers is shrinking, even as Iowa’s aging population is growing.
The survey says Iowa has at least 50,000 direct care workers, making it the state’s largest occupation. More than 95% of those workers are female.