AZ's need for direct-care workers is growing. How supporting migrants can meet that need

Published: Monday, September 18, 2023 - 3:08pm
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2023 - 9:06am

A new report found there’s a pressing need to recruit and retain tens of thousands of direct-care workers over the coming years. These are people who care for seniors and people with disabilities.

In Arizona, about a quarter of the direct-care workforce are immigrants, and about a third identify as being Latinx, according to Kezia Scales, who is the vice president of research and evaluation with PHI, a national organization that studies the direct-care workforce. 

"In order to meet the needs of older people and people with disabilities going forward, we're going to have to support immigrants within the direct-care workforce, and also open up new opportunities for immigrants to be able to join this workforce," Scales said. 

In fact, Arizona can expect to see around 190,000 direct-care job openings through 2030. 

"The bottom line here is that this is an issue that affects all of us, whether we ourselves need care at some point, or one of our loved ones does," she explained. "And the reality is that as our population is growing older, and people are living longer, often with complex conditions, we need evermore people in this workforce."

Scales says welcoming a workforce from other countries is "just a demographic reality."

"Sometimes there's this discourse around, you know, immigrants take jobs that otherwise would be for Americans. But the reality is, there's just too many jobs for the number of people that we have to fill them. So it's not a case of displacing American workers or anything like that," she said. 

Another big issue in the report was wages. While those went up during the pandemic, Scales says wages have stalled or decreased a bit. 

Low wages and the prevalence of part-time work can make it difficult for workers to support themselves and their families. Nearly 46% rely on public assistance.

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