Care work has forever been critical to the health and basic functioning of our society. With the steady aging of our population, care jobs are also among the fastest growing in our economy. A new report from Boston indicators and SkillWorks with input from the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative (MHAC) discusses trends, data and policy solutions around improving the quality and conditions of care work through an equity lens.
“Care Work in Massachusetts: A Call for Racial and Economic Justice” spotlights how today these jobs are staffed predominantly by immigrant women and women of color, so despite their societal importance, racial prejudice and gender discrimination have led to a systematic devaluation of care work. These workers tend to receive low wages, enjoy fewer basic benefits like employer-provided retirement plans, face harsh working conditions, and are exposed to high rates of occupational injury.
Throughout the paper, researchers focus on three specific categories of care workers: 1) home care workers, which includes people working independently and paid through MassHealth (called Personal Care Attendants in Massachusetts) and those employed by a home care agency; 2) long-term care facility workers; and 3) child-care workers.
MHAC’s input centered on how supporting care workers goes beyond the healthcare and support services sector and must be seen as a community-wide issue. This feedback showed up in the following recommendation:
- Improve public transit and expand affordable housing opportunities.
The issues may seem beyond the scope of the specific problem at hand—improving
care jobs—but on the contrary could be among the most life-changing solutions
for beleaguered care workers. The high cost of living in Massachusetts impacts all
workers but is especially hard for care workers whose low wages make it difficult to
afford housing where demand for their services is often highest. As it stands, many
workers are reliant on public transit to travel long distances from where they can
afford to live to where they can find a job. Investing in more frequent service, safety
improvements to reduce service disruptions, lower fares, and “first/last mile” services are critical to helping care workers do their jobs.
Read the full report and policy recommendations here.