Job Training and Support Services In-The-News: Week of October 17, 2016

Weekly Roundup of the news on women and supportive services in job training programs.

By Gladys McLean

Job training can provide an entry into family-sustaining jobs and careers. Many women in job training programs, however, face obstacles to success. Wraparound services—such as child care assistance, access to public benefits, and transportation or housing assistance—can help adults, particularly those with caregiving responsibilities, to complete programs that will ultimately improve their economic standing.

October 18, 2016

LA Daily News: City Council Members Propose Pairing Housing, Job Training for Homeless

Two City Council members Tuesday proposed a pilot program intended to give homeless individuals a better and more permanent path off the streets by matching them up with both job training and housing subsidies.

[…] Each participant would get temporary vouchers to pay for housing at the same time they are receiving training and paid work experience, which is meant to prepare them for a more permanent job.

The council members say their proposal is based on the idea that it might be more effective to provide housing and job assistance together, rather than separately. Those who receive the usual six months of housing assistance may find themselves back on the streets if they cannot secure a stable source of income, while someone who does not have a stable place to stay may find it difficult to maintain a steady job, according to their motion.

October 17, 2016

McDowell News: Manufacturing class seeks new funding

Christal Padgett is one of those in McDowell whose life has been changed because of a class. A single mother of three children, Padgett worked at a scrap metal yard until she fell and broke her foot. She told The McDowell News she wasn’t able to work and couldn’t return to her old job because of this injury. As she was filing for unemployment, Padgett learned about a manufacturing certification class offered through McDowell Technical Community College.

[…] For two years, McDowell Tech has offered this class in manufacturing certification, which is based out of the N.C. Works Career Center on Baldwin Avenue. Those who successfully complete this six-week class are able to make connections with local manufacturers and earn safety certification with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They can also earn certification in first-aid/CPR, career readiness and Microsoft Digital literacy and gaining an introduction to advanced manufacturing skills. Plant tours, job interviews, on-the-job training and apprenticeships are also available through this class. The class focuses on helping participants boost their attitude, initiative and attendance, said participants.

Westword: Heritage Food Incubator Comal Opens at TAXI

Comal’s mission goes far beyond providing Denver with home-style Mexican eats; the restaurant is part of a community-outreach project from nonprofit organization Focus Points, aimed at giving residents of the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods the job training they need to move forward with their careers. “Focus Points’ mission is to build communities by strengthening families,” says executive director Steven Moss, and to that end, the organization supports education initiatives, pre-schools, GED programs and economic development opportunities, with the goal of helping people in Denver’s low-income communities find stable jobs with good incomes.

[…] “This is a group of entrepreneurs with a passion for cooking. Focus Points asked: ‘How do we take this to the next level?’ In order to move to the next level, these women needed a kitchen.” says Focus Points’ director of economic and workforce development, Slavica Park.

The organization partnered with Zeppelin Development to secure that kitchen, taking over the old Fuel space. A cohort of community members will spend eight months there learning the nuts and bolts of how to operate a restaurant, with the goal of eventually opening their own restaurants or catering companies, or securing work in higher-end commercial kitchens.

October 15, 2016

New Haven Register: New Haven’s EMERGE serves ex-offender community with jobs, hope

As executive director for EMERGE, Jusino oversees a comprehensive program that, in addition to providing job training for construction, landscaping and property management positions, assists male and female ex-offenders with other services such as high school-level classes, group discussion sessions, parenting groups and job-training services. His program is the only one of its kind in the state.

[…] “All they believe they need is a job,” Jusino said. “Our goal is to kind of play on that. That they need a job to get them to do things they historically have not wanted to do…They don’t want to do literacy, they don’t want to get mental health (assistance), they don’t want to do occupational skills training, they don’t want to begin to explore the process of how they make decisions,” Jusino said.

So in order to get some individuals to buy in to the program, Jusino said they essentially strike a deal with prospective members: They leverage their ability to place them on payroll to participate in the additional services.

The entire process starts with an orientation that usually weeds out a majority of those in attendance. EMERGE is selective, relying on an interviewing process. EMERGE then pays individuals $10.10 an hour to work up to 24 hours a week. They are paid for 24 hours, but must make a 40-hour commitment. The remaining time must be used to attend classes and participate in additional services.

5 Things to Know in Advance of Tonight’s Debate

In advance of tonight’s first presidential debate, IWPR helps you get up to speed on these five top women’s policy issues:

  1. Improving Women’s Access to Good Jobs Can Narrow the Wage Gap
  2. A College Affordability Challenge: Declining Availability of Campus Child Care
  3. The Significance of the Gender Wage Gap; Wages among Women of Color are Especially Low
  4. Breadwinner Mothers are Common in Every State, but Policies Need to Catch Up
  5. The Evidence-Based Case for Paid Sick Days and Paid Leave Policies


1. Improving Women’s Access to Good Jobs Can Narrow the Wage Gap

>> Read the report, Pathways to Equity: Narrowing the Wage Gap by Improving Women’s Access to Good Middle-Skill Jobs or the Executive Summary. 

Half of the gender wage gap is due to women working in different occupations and sectors than men. Improving women’s access to good middle-skill jobs—in growing sectors, such as manufacturing, IT, and transportation—can help close the wage gap and improve women’s economic security.


Click to visit

Visit, to read the report and explore an interactive, searchable database of middle-skills jobs, which helps users identify pools of skilled women workers who could be tapped to fill shortages, ensuring that the economy benefits from the talent of its whole workforce.

2. A College Affordability Challenge: Declining Availability of Campus Child Care

>> Read the briefing paper, Child Care for Parents in College: A State-by-State Assessment

As nearly 5 million undergraduate students raising children return to college this fall, a new IWPR state-by-state and national analysis finds that campus child care is declining in 36 states across the country, and that many states have rules making it difficult for students to get child care subsidies.

For the nearly 9 in 10 (88 percent) student parents living in or near poverty, paying for child care can be an insurmountable obstacle. IWPR’s analysis finds that, rather than assisting students with the high cost of child care, 11 states require college students to also be employed to be eligible for child care subsidies. In 3 states—Arizona, Kentucky, and Washington—parents are required to work at least 20 hours per week in addition to attending school, an amount proven to diminish rates of college completion among students overall, in order to be eligible for subsidies.

3. The Significance of the Gender Wage Gap; Wages among Women of Color are Especially Low

>> Read IWPR’s New Resources on Pay Equity & Discrimination, including Five Ways to Win an Argument about the Gender Wage Gap

IWPR’s updated fact sheet clarifies the most common myths about gender wage gap statistics. IWPR’s researchers note that a pay gap of 79.6 percent accurately describes the pay inequality between men and women in the labor force and reflects a variety of different factors, including: discrimination in pay, recruitment, job assignment, and promotion; lower earnings in occupations mainly done by women; and women’s disproportionate share of time spent on family care, including that they—rather than fathers—still tend to be the ones to take more time off work when families have children.

In fact, the annual wage ratio of 80 percent is actually a moderate estimate of gender pay inequality. Women of color fare much worse, with Black women making 63.3 percent of what White men earn per year and Hispanic women making 54.4 percent.


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In addition, IWPR has found:

  • Women earn less than men in almost every occupation and are four times more likely than men to work in jobs with poverty-level wages.
  • If current trends continue, women will not receive equal pay until 2059, according to a related IWPR analysis of trends in earnings since 1960.
  • If women earned the same as comparable men—men who are of the same age, have the same level of education, work the same number of hours, and have the same urban/rural status—poverty among working women would be cut in half and the US economy would grow by $482.2 billion.

4. Breadwinner Mothers are Common in Every State, but Policies Need to Catch Up

>> Read the quick figures, Breadwinner Mothers by Race/Ethnicity and State

A new IWPR national and state-by-state analysis of breadwinner moms finds that four in five Black mothers and two in three Native American mothers are breadwinners, compared with fewer than half of White and Asian/Pacific Islander mothers. Breadwinner moms are either raising children on their own or contributing at least 40 percent of a married couple’s earnings. The majority of Black, Native American, and Hispanic breadwinner moms are single and raising a family on their own, while the majority of White and Asian/Pacific Islander breadwinner mothers are married.

As the share of breadwinner mothers increases, another IWPR analysis found that women’s wages fell 1.6 percent between 2004 and 2014, with Black, Native American, and Hispanic women’s earnings falling around three times as much as women’s earnings overall. (Read the analysis with state data for Black women and Native American women.)

5. The Evidence-Based Case for Paid Sick Days and Paid Leave Policies

>> Read the briefing paper, Paid Sick Days Benefit Employers, Workers, and the Economy

Four in 10 American workers lack access to paid sick days, with access less likely among Hispanic workers and workers in low-wage and food service jobs. A recent IWPR briefing paper compiles all available social science and policy research, which show that paid sick days are associated with benefits to employers—including reduced contagion in the workplace, improved productivity, decreased workplace injuries, and lower employee turnover—and employment benefits to workers, including greater job stability and labor force attachment.

>> Read the report, Paid Parental Leave in the United States: What the Data Tell Us about Access, Usage, and Economic and Health Benefits

Another IWPR report compiles available research and data on the access to paid parental leave and the benefits of such a policy. A growing body of research suggests that paid family leave increases labor market attachment, economic security, and the health and welfare of families and children, and has the potential to help businesses thrive, reduce spending on public benefits programs, and promote economic growth and competitiveness.

Follow @IWPResearch on Twitter and Facebook.

President’s Message: Fall 2015

By Heidi Hartmann

It has been a great year for IWPR. Among many report releases, strong press coverage, and great exposure in the popular media, I want to particularly share with you my excitement at the new era that has begun in the struggle to attain paid parental leave in the United States. From President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union speech to the 2016 presidential candidates from both parties, the call for paid parental leave has come to the fore. While one candidate attacked the need for any legislation guaranteeing such policies (claiming that employers that find it important to their business will do it on their own), many candidates have supported the call for paid parental leave policy at the federal level, although most have not yet issued detailed plans. Never before has paid family leave been addressed so prominently in these venues.

I am very proud to say that IWPR’s dogged work since the mid-1990s to present paid family leave as a realistic option for the United States is finally paying off. As noted in Jeff Hayes’ opening article in this newsletter, IWPR first highlighted the use of state Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) programs—which already covered a woman’s pregnancy, delivery, and recovery—as vehicles for paid family care leave in a paper presented in 1995 at the annual meetings of the American Economic Association. We followed that up with a fact sheet in 1996 describing the five existing state TDI programs. California was in fact the first of these states to adopt paid family care leave, built upon their TDI program, in 2002; IWPR staff members had traveled to Sacramento to present findings on more than one occasion. More recently, New Jersey in 2008 and Rhode Island in 2013 have joined California in expanding their TDI programs to provide paid benefits for family care leave, typically four to six weeks and all paid for by workers through payroll tax deduction.

Currently, the District of Columbia is one of several local and state jurisdictions that is actively exploring how to establish a new paid leave program without a TDI system to build upon. The District won one of four competitive grants offered by the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, to enable research on feasibility, and the District contracted with IWPR for assistance with its analysis. This year, the Women’s Bureau awarded eight grants and IWPR is expecting to work with four of the winning jurisdictions.

The Women’s Bureau grants seemed to have started an avalanche as several other states are spending their own funds on feasibility studies for paid family leave. For sure, an avalanche began in the tech industry as firms competed with one another to offer family leave. As reported by Elle, Netflix started it by offering up to one year paid leave; Microsoft then offered 12 paid weeks for family care, in addition to 8 for maternity disability. Adobe Systems then announced an expansion of maternity leave from 17 to 26 weeks and a doubling of fathers’ time off from 2 weeks to 4 weeks. Amazon responded to all this with 20 weeks off for pregnancy including 4 weeks prepartum and up to 6 weeks off for fathers. Finally, Spotify now gives up to 6 month off with pay anytime from 2 months before birth to a child’s third birthday. Of course, firms with highly skilled talent are more likely to make such an investment, but Facebook also requires its contracting firms (providing services such as food and cleaning among other services) to provide parental leave or a lump sum of $4,000 in lieu of paid leave. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is currently taking a two month leave after the birth of his family’s first child. Policies and practices such as these dramatically change the climate in favor of change at a national level. It is an international embarrassment that 183 countries have paid parental leave and only the US—along with Papua New Guinea—does not (according to the International Labour Organization).

Should the current discussion on national security leave any room and the issue of family leave reverberate in the presidential election in 2016, change could happen much more quickly than is commonly expected. IWPR’s work will be central to the action! Stay tuned.

Shining a Light on the Wage Gap

HHFifty years after the Equal Pay Act, employment discrimination persists but is harder to see.

By Dr. Heidi Hartmann

When the Equal Pay Act (EPA) was passed 50 years ago, discrimination was, in many ways, openly accepted in the workplace and women were expected to earn less than men in the same jobs. The EPA signed by President John F. Kennedy on June 10, 1963, helped to reduce this type of blatant employment discrimination, but it is still present and the wage gap persists.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) was founded 25 years ago, at the end of the 1980s, the decade which saw the most sustained narrowing of the gender wage gap since passage of the EPA. Between 1981 and 1990, the gender wage gap closed by more than ten percentage points. In the most recent decade, progress has stalled and the gap narrowed by no more than one percentage point.

There is no single cause for the pay gap. Jobs dominated by women pay less than jobs dominated by men. Over their lifetimes, women still take off more time from paid work for family care than men. Women also still face subtle—and not so subtle—discrimination when they do the similar work to men. Direct discrimination is still estimated to account for between one quarter and 40 percent of the wage gap, according to several reviews of social science research.

Employers can no longer advertise jobs at different rates for men and women. But paying women less for similar performance, giving women less access to career-enhancing opportunities, and making it harder for women to get promoted are practices that continue to hinder progress towards equal pay.

Tackling those types of employment discrimination is surprisingly difficult because employees may still be fired simply for discussing their earnings with a colleague or coworker. In an age when information sharing has become widespread and hearing about a major life event over social networking is not uncommon, exchanging pay information remains frowned upon by many employers. Pay secrecy allows disparities, discrimination, and unequal pay to hide under the rug.

President Kennedy hands out pens at the White House signing of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963.  Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

President John F. Kennedy hands out pens at the White House signing of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

According to an IWPR/Rockefeller survey, half of all workers (51 percent of women and 47 percent of men) report that the discussion of wage and salary information is either discouraged or prohibited and/or could lead to punishment. The Equal Pay Act does not protect workers against retaliation for sharing salary information with their co-workers. In the public sector, where pay information is publicly available, a smaller pay gap exists compared to the private sector.

The 2009 Lily Ledbetter Act provides that every paycheck that pays a woman less than a male colleague for equal or similar work can be challenged in court, but the act did not address pay secrecy. Ledbetter worked for a company that prohibited the discussion of one’s salary. After 18 years on the job, Ledbetter sued when, in an anonymous note from a coworker, she received evidence that she was being paid unfairly. The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced in the last Congress, but failed to pass to a vote in the Senate. This bill would have protected workers against retaliation for sharing pay information.

Women don’t have the time to wait to earn the same as men because their families need the money now. According to the most recent estimate from IWPR, however, the wage gap is not expected to close until 2057. Many women working today will never see equal pay, harming their long-term earnings and leaving them with lower retirement income.

In an age where women in the United States are almost half the workforce, are more likely to gain higher levels of education than men, and increasingly are the main or co-breadwinner in families, we cannot wait for another 44 years for the gender wage gap to be finally relegated to the history books.

Dr. Heidi Hartmann is President of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. 

One on One with Rosa DeLauro, Congresswoman and Champion for Women and Families

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro speaking at IWPR's 25th anniversary event.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro speaking at IWPR’s 25th anniversary event.

By Caroline Dobuzinskis

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is known in Washington, D.C., is a champion for women. Her dedication and continued work to improve policies for women and their families demonstrate why more women should run for office.

Rep. DeLauro represents Connecticut’s Third District, which stretches from the Long Island Sound and New Haven to the Naugatuck Valley and Waterbury. She serves in the Democratic leadership as co-chair of the Steering and Policy Committee, and she is the ranking member on the Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee. From that position, Rep. DeLauro works to increase support for education and innovation, to fully implement the Affordable Care Act, to protect the rights of employees and unions, and to raise living standards.

Rep. DeLauro has led efforts in Congress to achieve full pay equity for women and to ensure that all employees have access to paid sick days. Soon after earning degrees from Marymount College and Columbia University, she followed her parents’ footsteps into public service, serving as the first Executive Director of EMILY’S List, a national organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in elected office, Executive Director of Countdown ’87, the national campaign that successfully stopped U.S. military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras, and as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd.

In 1990, Rep. DeLauro was elected to the House of Representatives, and she has served as the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s 3rd District since. She is married to Stanley Greenberg, President of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a public issues research firm. Their children—Anna, Kathryn and Jonathan Greenberg—all are grown and pursuing careers. They have four grandchildren, Rigby, Teo, Sadie, and Jasper.

Tell me about yourself. What was your personal journey to your current career?

My family always stressed the value of public service. Both of my parents served on the New Haven Board of Aldermen and my mother is the longest serving Alderman—or Alderwoman!—in New Haven’s history. They really imparted to me the importance of giving back to your community and trying to better the world around you.

I have attempted to live up to the example they set throughout my life. For a long time I worked in more of a behind-the-scenes role… Eventually, I decided that I wanted to hold elected office myself and have been privileged to serve in Congress ever since.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievements?

A few things stick out. One is doubling the funding for the National Institutes of Health between 1998 and 2003. As an ovarian cancer survivor, one of my explicit goals when I came to Congress was supporting medical research and the fight against cancer. That doubling has reaped real dividends and we have made amazing progress, but we really need to do it again!

Another was passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Because of that law women’s health care is finally on the same footing as men’s and millions of women will no longer have to pay more for their insurance just because they are a woman. It is truly transformative and people across the country will continue to see more of its benefits in the coming years.

What obstacles did you encounter along your path to a successful career?

While serving as Senator Dodd’s Chief of Staff I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was supposed to be running his reelection campaign and worried about what would happen. When I told Senator Dodd, he was so supportive and told me to take all the time I needed to get better. I will never forget that and it has been a huge part of why I am so driven to ensure all Americans can take time off, without having to fear for their paycheck, when they or a loved one are sick.

How do you think that the landscape has changed for women in the past 25 years or, more recently, in the past decade?

Clearly we have made great strides. Women make up about half of the workforce and we see more women in leadership roles in both the public and private sector—though still far too few!

But women still make just 77 cents for every dollar a man does and make up the majority of minimum-wage workers. This mirrors the growing gap between the wealthiest and poorest in our society. Electing more people to public office who will fight for equal pay, family-friendly workplace policies and better educational opportunities is crucial to righting this.

Are there certain policies to support women that you think are still lacking in the United States?

I have introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act in each of the past eight congresses and I will continue fighting for it until we truly have equal pay for equal work. The bill is very simple—it says same job, same pay, regardless of gender. Nearly 50 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law we should not still be having these same battles.

And as I mentioned earlier, we need policies that will make our workplaces more family-friendly and reflect a society where both men and women work outside the home. I have repeatedly introduced legislation to ensure workers can take paid leave when they or a loved one are sick. We have seen similar policies passed in cities across the country and I am hopeful it is only a matter of time before people nationwide have that right.

What are your goals for women in the United States and across the globe?

Women should be recognized for their skills, talents, and intelligence on an equal playing field as men. Girls should have access to education and be encouraged to thrive in those environments. Young women should be paid the same as their male colleagues and have the same opportunities to blaze whatever career path they choose. And older women should have a dignified retirement and not have to make the terrible choice between food, housing, medicine, or other necessities. At times it may seem like a struggle, but I know that one day all of these goals will be reality.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro spoke about “An Economic Agenda for Women’s Equality” at IWPR’s 25th anniversary event on May 22, 2013, at the AFL-CIO in Washington, DC. Watch the full video of the event.

One on One with Professor and Expert on Women in Politics, Dr. Michele L. Swers

Michele Swers

Dr. Michele Swers, Associate Professor, Department of Government, Georgetown University.

By Caroline Dobuzinskis

Throughout this month, IWPR will be interviewing speakers appearing at our 25th anniversary celebration on May 22. Our esteemed speakers will share with us their own stories of accomplishment and perseverance, their perspectives on women’s advances, and their hopes for future progress. 

Michele L. Swers is an Associate Professor of American Government in the Department of Government at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., focusing on how the gender of elected representatives plays a part in congressional policymaking. Dr. Swers has appeared as an expert in a range of media outlets, including PBS’ “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” CQ Weekly, Politico, CNN, as well as in national and state newspapers.

Dr. Swers is the author of two books on women’s representation in Congress, The Difference Women Make: The Policy Impact of Women in Congress (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and Women in the Club: Gender and Policy Making in the Senate (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

Tell me about yourself. What was your personal journey to your current career?

I always loved history. I read books about the presidents and other great historical figures. My grandmother gave me a book about first ladies and she told me stories about Eleanor Roosevelt. This sparked an interest in learning about the role of women in history and politics. I also found that I enjoyed teaching. Before history tests, I would have friends over at my house and run study sessions. I was a high school social studies teacher before I went back to school for my Ph.D. in political science.

I was in college during the 1992 “Year of the Woman” elections, and I was struck by the fact that my political science texts clearly stated that all members of Congress respond to re-election incentives and the nature of their districts. Therefore, the identity of the individual member did not matter, as long as they stayed true to the district. At the same time, EMILY’s List was raising vast sums of money, not to elect all Democrats, but specifically to elect pro-choice Democratic women. Why would a savvy political organization do this if any Democrat would pursue their agenda? I went to graduate school to investigate the question of whether electing women has an impact on policy outcomes.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievements?

I am very fortunate to have a fulfilling career and a loving family. As a professor at Georgetown, I work with very smart and energetic students who are interested in politics and want to make a contribution to society. I am able to do research that I love on the policy impact of electing women to Congress. I have written two books on the subject. My most recent book, Women in the Club: Gender and Policy Making in the Senate (University of Chicago Press) was just published this month. I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful children. My job allows me to spend time with them and support their education and growth.

What obstacles did you encounter along your path to a successful career?

Academic jobs are difficult to get. To get the best education I could and maximize my marketability, I had to endure several years of a commuter marriage. Once you have a job, the biological clock and the tenure clock are not very compatible so that affected when I decided to have my children. On the whole, I have been very fortunate in my career path. Many women who came before me had to endure significant discrimination and undervaluing of their research and contributions. I benefitted from their sacrifices and have tried to support the women coming up behind me.

How do you think that the landscape has changed for women in the past 25 years or, more recently, in the past decade?

Over the past 25 years, opportunities for women in education and the workforce have greatly expanded. The presence of women in the workforce is almost universally accepted and women can compete for top jobs in all fields. However, society has not reconciled the advancement of women into the workforce with the imperative of caring for children.  Fathers are still expected to be breadwinners and the United States does not have a system of paid family leave or universal quality childcare. This lack of attention to issues of work-family balance creates difficulties for single and two parent families at all income levels.

Are there certain policies to support women that you think are still lacking in the United States?

We need to find ways to support families in their efforts to balance the demands of their jobs and the health and welfare of their families. Creation and expansion of family leave to include paid leave, the development of affordable, quality childcare, and improved regulation of childcare would improve the lives of women and their families. Tax credits and deductions would encourage businesses to offer family-friendly policies such as paid leave, on-site childcare, and telecommuting opportunities.  A workforce that can properly care for their children and be confident about their well-being will be a more productive workforce.

You can hear Dr. Swers speak at IWPR’s May 22 anniversary celebration, “Making Research Count for Women: Launching the Next 25 Years.”

The Real Value of In-Home Care Work in the United States

Care worker with elderly womanBy Caroline Dobuzinskis

Baby Boomers, estimated at nearly 80 million in the United States, began turning 65 in 2011.By 2020, the population of older adults is expected to grow to 55 million from 40.4 million in 2010. As more women enter the labor force and fewer are able to care for older family members, providing in-home care to the growing aging population, as well as the disabled and chronically ill, is becoming more critical to a robust U.S. economy.

A new briefing paper by IWPR, “Women and the Care Crisis: Valuing In-Home Care in Policy and Practice,” outlines these challenges but emphasizes that, despite the growing demand, in-home care work jobs continue to be undervalued and underpaid.

While often working long hours to care for others, many in-home care workers cannot afford to take care of their own needs. 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. In-home care workers are also excluded from coverage by the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that helps ensure basic standards of living for U.S. workers by requiring employers to pay minimum wages and provide overtime compensation.

The general lack of value placed on paid care work is due to a number of complex factors. Research suggests that what is seen as traditionally women’s labor, at all skill levels, reaps lower economic rewards. The simple fact that the majority of paid care work is performed by women could contribute to its lower average wages. Care work also blurs the lines between formal and informal labor, which can result in the workers being perceived as part of the family and make it more difficult for them to set boundaries that define the requirements and terms of their jobs.

Many in-home care workers are immigrants who may lack pathways to legal status, leaving them vulnerable to low levels of pay and to abuses from employers. According to IWPR research analysis, 90 percent of home health care aides in the United States are women, 56 percent are women of color, and 28 percent are foreign-born with the vast majority (60 percent) migrating from Latin America and the Caribbean. Despite the fact that these immigrant workers are filling an essential labor gap, many remain undocumented and without clear access to citizenship or visa status. Many domestic worker and immigrant groups are waiting to see if Congress will address this issue.

Among the recommendations in IWPR’s report, Increasing Pathways to Legal Status for Immigrant in-Home Care Workers (published February 2013), is an increase in the number and types of immigration visas available to immigrant care workers to help fill the labor shortage in the U.S. industry. The most recent immigration deal being crafted the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of U.S. senators tasked with finding immigration reform solutions, includes an option to provide temporary work visas to undocumented immigrants performing essential, low-skilled labor.

IWPR’s briefing paper, “Women and the Care Crisis: Valuing In-Home Care in Policy and Practice,” proposes several changes that would improve circumstances for all care workers and recipients, as well as the industry as whole, including:

1. Encouraging public dialogue about the growing need for care work and the skills and contributions of those who provide in-home care

2. Improving estimates of the value of unpaid care work and making the public more aware of this work’s critical importance to the nation’s economy.

3. Implementing public policies that affirm the value of care work and those who provide it.

4. Creating more quality in-home care work jobs that will improve the employment prospects of the female workforce, help to reduce inequality, and strengthen the U.S. economy overall.

Many groups and organizations, such as Caring Across Generations, support improved workers rights for care workers nationwide. New York State passed a law entitling domestic workers to, among other provisions, a minimum wage, pay for overtime hours, one day of rest for every seven days, and at least three paid leave days per year after one year of work for the same employer. Further policies are still needed that affirm the value of care work in order to reduce the inequality in wages for these workers and strengthen the U.S. economy overall.

Caroline Dobuzinskis is the Communications Manager with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.