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Direct-care workers are very much a part of low-wage economy

It was refreshing to see Ronald Lwanga’s story in Yvonne Abraham’s column “Low wages, high hopes” (Metro, June 12), about low-wage workers. Though we most often think of Walmart and MacDonald’s workers as the face of the low-wage economy, direct-care workers — home health aides, personal care aides, and nursing assistants — constitute one of the largest occupational groups in the nation. By 2020, these workers are expected to reach nearly 5 million, more than nurses, K-12 teachers, and public safety officers.

Direct-care workers provide essential assistance to growing numbers of elders and people with disabilities. The work they do is vital to families across Massachusetts and the nation. Yet many earn less than $10 an hour. As a result, nearly half the workforce turns over each year, making it difficult to find consistent, quality care for our parents and grandparents.

To attract skilled workers such as Lwanga, we need to raise the floor. Direct-care workers deserve not only better wages, but paid leave, quality training, and opportunities for professional growth.

Karen Kahn

The writer is the communications director for the New York-based Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute.