Valuing Care by Valuing Care Workers: The Big Cost of a Worthy Standard and Some Steps toward It

October 7, 2015

Care workers, including both child care and hands-on direct care providers, number 5.5 million and are employed in some of the most dynamically growing and lowest-paying jobs in the American economy. Their “priceless” work, of such critical importance to families and society, rarely offers more than miserable wages and shoddy benefits. Improving these jobs and securing a decent standard of care requires fundamentally and dramatically reshaping the nation’s understanding of what care work is, what it is worth, and how to pay for it.

Raising job quality and the standard of care will require a substantial infusion of public money and a simple and direct means of delivering that investment directly to care workers. To get there, we will need to build on the important work already being done by coalitions on care work throughout the nation. Child care and health care workers, as well as their advocates and unions, need to be increasingly connected to city and state minimum wage campaigns to ensure that care workers are covered by increases and to begin securing public and private resources needed to make higher care wages a reality.

This can be the start of strong community-based care work infrastructure to identify, organize, and rationalize the work, to create infrastructure that could bring health insurance or other benefits directly to the care workforce, and to build the case, constituency, and infrastructure for the transformation of these jobs in the long run.