Oregon’s current care economy is vast and largely invisible. Currently underinvested, it creates and exacerbates poverty and inequality. We are missing the opportunity to invest adequately in the care economy in order to build a stronger, more inclusive economy and better life for us all. This report seeks to bring care work into view.
Earning roughly $10 per hour, paid caregivers—nearly all women and disproportionately women of color—are seriously underpaid for the essential work that they do and the skills they bring. Far too many must rely on public benefits like food stamps just to make ends meet. Alongside this substantial and poorly compensated paid care workforce is a legion of unpaid care workers. A very conservative measure suggests that unpaid care generates the equivalent of 167,000 full-time care jobs a year inside families in Oregon.
Additionally, the cost of care is extremely high. Full-time, center-based infant care for one child cost 51 percent of median income for single parent Oregon families for 2014, and 15 percent of median income for married-couple families, in stark contrast to the federal benchmark for “affordable” child care of 10 percent of family income. The private market for long-term care for seniors and people living with disabilities or chronic health conditions can also be prohibitively expensive. Medicaid provides almost half of the non-family funding for long-term care, but only to those who have exhausted their assets and income.
To change the care economy, the State of Oregon must invest resources directly into it. For that investment to pay the highest returns economically and socially, it should be through comprehensive programs that support unpaid caregivers; make paid care more available, accessible, affordable, and culturally appropriate; and employ paid caregivers with wages and working conditions that allow for dignity, comfort and access to care themselves.