PHI Study Finds Few COVID-Displaced Workers Re-Employed in Direct Care

Workforce | October 13, 2021 | by Andrea Price-Carter

PHI and the Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care at the University of California, San Francisco released a new report on direct care workers, Workforce Displacement and Re-Employment During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Implications for Direct Care Workforce Recruitment and Retention. The findings from this analysis determined there were few COVID-displaced workers re-employed in direct care.

The report examines workforce displacement and re-entry during the COVID-19 pandemic among direct care workers and workers from similar entry-level occupations, such as food preparation and serving, office and administrative support, and others. The study’s purpose was to understand whether and how new workers were recruited into direct care jobs during this crisis, which has implications for the long-term care field. The findings from this analysis determined there were few COVID-displaced workers re-employed in direct care.

Additionally, the report analysis determined:

  • 13.7 million U.S. workers were displaced from occupations with similar entry-level requirements to direct care during the first three months of COVID-19 in 2020.
  • An estimated 153,610 workers were displaced from the direct care workforce in the first three months of the pandemic and had not been re-employed by the first quarter of 2021.
  • 4% (or 168,370) direct care workers were displaced during the second quarter of 2020, and an immeasurably small number of displaced workers (from direct care or any other occupation) were re-employed into direct care, not even those who had worked in direct care jobs originally.
  • Direct care workers had a much lower rate of workforce re-entry compared to other major occupational groups.
  • Large scale movement of displaced workers into direct care jobs has not occurred, despite online job boards and other innovative recruitment strategies deployed by long-term care leaders.
  • Workers from similar entry-level occupations, such as food preparation and serving, office and administrative support experienced re-entry rates at 60 to 65%, which includes: 64% of workers from personal care and service occupations (i.e., childcare); and 63% food preparation and serving related occupations; and 65% from other healthcare support occupations (excluding direct care).
  • Instead of entering the direct care workforce, the displaced workers that were the focus of this research almost all moved into occupations that had higher median wages compared to direct care – even when moving into occupations with fewer work hours and/or lower median waged compared to their original occupation.

In the conclusion, the study reiterates the importance of a new public investment in long-term care, or direct care employers will continue struggling to compete. There is a discussion on why increasing wages for direct care workers must be the centerpiece of immediate and ongoing efforts to recruit new job candidates into the LTSS field. Employers can consider offering other benefits – like health insurance, paid family and medical leave, bereavement leave – that help boost workers’ overall compensation. In addition, there are opportunities to recruit new job seekers into the direct care workforce from across occupations and demographic groups.

The findings from the research also recommend implementing strategies to grow the direct care workforce by developing tailored on-the-job supports and recruitment efforts that are targeted to specific groups of displaced workers and other job seekers. Through these interventions, long-term care leaders will be able to build a stable, adequate direct care workforce to support older adults and people with disabilities throughout the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and into the future.

Read the full report here