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A look at low-wage jobs and who does them


Home caregiver dressing senior

Home health aides are among the fastest-growing segment of the low-wage workforce.

Ever wonder who the people are who are doing low-wage work? It‘s not just young people getting their first work experience, or retirees looking for extra cash.

Occupational health researchers from Upstate are involved in a long-term project studying the health of people with low-wage jobs. In the Syracuse area, a low wage would be work that pays up to $15 per hour.

The researchers have learned that substantial numbers of low-wage workers come from every age group. And, many of those working in their golden years are doing so out of necessity.

Jeanette Zoeckler, PhD

Jeanette Zoeckler, PhD

“At the same time, there is concern that teens who need valuable early work experience are being edged out of entry-level jobs by those over 25 who are primary breadwinners,” says a report by Jeanette Zoeckler, PhD, Michael Lax, MD, and colleagues.

Here‘s a look at New York state statistics showing who‘s doing the low-wage work in Syracuse:

* 5 percent are age 16 to 19

* 15 percent are older than 55

* 75 percent are older than 25

* 53 percent are women

* 75 percent are people of color

* 75 percent work full time

* 53 percent have some college experience

* 33 percent have children

* 27 are the sole providers of income in their home

The low-wage occupations tend to require entry-level skills and are vital to basic operations in the retail, restaurant, health care, education, manufacturing and government sectors. Among the fastest-growing job titles are bartender, cook, home health aide, physical therapy aide, medical assistant, ophthalmic medical technician, emergency medical technician, paramedic and medical secretary.

Upstate Health Fall 2017 coverHealthLink on Air logoThis article appears in the fall 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine. To hear a "HealthLink on Air" interview with Zoeckler about what she has discovered about low-wage workers in Central New York, click here.