Healthcare jobs boost American middle class

The healthcare industry provides a ray of hope for middle-class workers seeking well-paying jobs with opportunities for advancement, the New York Times reports, though not all workers may benefit from this trend. 

Although the hospital sector has struggled to create new jobs in recent years, the latest data indicates hiring has returned to a brisk pace, with demand particularly high for nonclinical positions such as community health workers and medical assistants, FierceHealthcare has reported.

As the ranks of healthcare workers have swelled, so too have their wages, according to the Times, which reported that in 1980, 1.4 million healthcare jobs paid a "middle-class wage," while today it amounts to 4.5 million jobs. Women also hold 44 percent of middle-income jobs today, while that figure was about 25 percent 30 years ago, the newspaper reported.

But not all healthcare jobs have been so lucrative. Home-based caregivers, which are increasingly in demand as baby boomers age, have organized meetings and rallies in more than 20 cities nationwide in the next two weeks to campaign for higher wages, USA Today reports. Inspired by fast food and retail worker protests, home care workers seek a $15 minimum wage and the right to unionize.

Nearly half of these workers rely on public aid, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project, and though revenues in the home care industry have grown by 48 percent since 2004, wages for home care employees have declined nearly 6 percent. Many nurses face a similar struggle, as a December report indicated that few received pay raises in the last year despite the healthcare industry's overall growth.

Still, for many Americans, healthcare jobs provide one of the more secure paths to prosperity, according to the Times. "I knew if I was a nurse I could be self-sufficient and wouldn't have to rely on anyone to take care of me," Tabitha Waugh, a registered nurse at St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia, told the newspaper.  

Indeed, recent research indicates that both physicians and nurse practitioners (NPs) are more likely to recommend careers as NPs than becoming a doctor, according to FierceHealthcare.

To learn more:
- read the Times article
- check out the USA Today piece
- here's the NELP report (.pdf)