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Home Health Aides Scraping By on Low Wages During Pandemic

Home Health Aides
New Jersey’s home health aides are caring for seniors and people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, while earning an average salary of just $25,000 per year.
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A report by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work highlights the economic challenges home health aides face in New Jersey 

New Jersey’s home health aides are caring for seniors and people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, while earning an average salary of just $25,000 per year, according to a report by the Center for Women and Work at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. Since home health aides and other domestic workers are predominantly women, their low wages help to explain why the gender wage gap persists in New Jersey and across the United States.

“With all of the attention rightly focused on our incredible doctors, nurses and first responders, it’s easy to forget about the thousands of home health aides who are caring for vulnerable New Jerseyans every day,” said Debra Lancaster, executive director of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work. “We’ve seen a growing demand for their services over the last 20 years. Yet, they remain among the lowest-paid workers in our state.”

Home health aides check vital signs and assist their clients with bathing, dressing, meals, medications and other daily activities, while providing companionship and emotional support. Some aides live with their clients 24/7. Others work for home health agencies and visit multiple clients daily. The Rutgers Center for Women and Work’s analysis of federal data finds:

  • New Jersey has about 36,000 home health aides. That’s more than almost every other state.
  • 95 percent are women; 51 percent are immigrants; and 69 percent are black, Hispanic, or Asian.
  • The number of home health aides in New Jersey is on the rise due to an aging population.
  • Despite the important services they provide, home health aides are low-wage workers.
  • The average home health aide in New Jersey earns between $23,380 and $25,330.

The Center for Women and Work made the announcement on Equal Pay Day Tuesday, the symbolic date on which women’s earnings catch up to men’s earnings from the previous year. New Jersey ranks at or near the bottom of all states on pay equity for women of color. Latina women in New Jersey earn 42 cents and black women earn 56 cents for every dollar a white man earns, according to data from the National Women’s Law Center.

“The low wages paid to home health aides and other domestic workers are a major reason why we still have a wage gap in 2020,” said Yana Rodgers, economist and faculty director of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work. “It’s not always a function of overt discrimination. In many cases, the problem is that jobs thought of as ‘women’s work’ do not pay as much as ‘men’s work.’ Until that changes, the wage gap is not going away.”