The OECD has just published an interesting new study that shows the long-term care workforce crisis is not just an American problem. Major developed countries all around the world are struggling to find enough qualified workers to care for their growing populations of frail elderly.

The problem in the U.S. is becoming a crisis. We pay home care workers an average of just $9.50-an-hour, often less than we pay the kid at the car wash. Aides rarely get health or retirement benefits or paid vacation days, and they are more likely to be injured on the job than coal miners. And the problem is not just with aides. More skilled professionals, such as geriatricians or geriatric nurses, are leaving their professions faster than they can be replaced.

It turns out, according to the OECD study, that this a problem throughout the developed world. Even countries like Germany that have created a strong system for financing long-term care struggle to find the workers they need to deliver this assistance. Pay is frequently as poor in Europe as it is here and, interestingly, the use of foreign-born workers is increasing there just as it is here.   

As commited as we are to caring for our parents, we can’t do it without assistance, and unless we are willing to provide aides with better pay and benefits, getting that help is going to be more and more difficult.