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Jobs of the Future in One Astounding Graph

new analysis by the Brookings Institute has discovered this eye-popping statistic: in the last ten years, the US health care industry has created jobs at a rate ten times faster than the entire rest of the economy. Here’s that number in visual form, via the Atlantic:

Those worried about the future of employment in America—for themselves or for the country as a whole—should look to this data. As of now, many of the jobs of the future are going to be health care jobs, and that will only become more true if Obamacare stands and the pool of insured patients expands dramatically. To understand what the jobs of the future will be (or to land one), go where the money is: services, and especially, according to this data, health services.

For those unlikely to take up health jobs, this graph might seem discouraging. After all, more doctors and health workers points to more health care costs, in a system that’s already vastly too expensive. As the Atlantic points out on its piece on the graph, “There are a couple stories that branch off from this graph. One is the unchecked growth in health care prices over the last few decades, which has made the medical industry the one truly recession-proof job engine of the economy.”

But there’s also a case of optimism here. The Atlantic notes that the two kinds of health care jobs most likely to grow in coming decades are personal health aides and home health workers. This is good news even on its own; achieving a better balance between hospital care and home care is an important task for health care reformers. Moreover, it means there’s a lot of room for entrepreneurial individuals to come up with new and creative ways to cater to a growing demand for personalized health care.

But it is also good news for costs. If the responsibility for most primary care shifts from doctors to nurse practitioners and health home workers armed with cutting-edge medical tech, the price of health care could actually come down, at least with respect to personnel costs. Nurse practitioners and home health workers are paid well, but still much less than doctors are.

If new health care jobs are going to these kind of workers rather than doctors, our system could become cheaper, more efficient, and more personalized. That would be a win-win situation for everyone, and some welcome progress in improving our dysfunctional system.

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  • wigwag

    “Nurse practitioners and home health workers are paid well, but still much less than doctors are.” ( Walter Russell Mead)

    While nurse practitioners are very well paid, it is simply factually inaccurate to claim that home health care workers are well paid; the vast majority are not. Most home health care workers are low skilled and earn low wages, often at or near the minimum wage. While there are exceptions (e.g. physical and occupational therapists who come to the patient’s home), the exceptions are few and far between. A particular irony is that many home health care workers get no fringe benefits and don’t receive health insurance for themselves or their families.

    One of the reasons that there are so many new jobs for home health care workers is that the American population is aging and as people get older they are more likely to need these kind of services. Changing bed pans, helping the elderly take showers and providing old people with assistance to get dressed and undressed is labor intensive and not especially susceptible to technology induced improvements in productivity.

    The idea that there is any kernel of optimism in the report that Professor Mead cites in this post, just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    • Corlyss

      In your experience, are most of the home health care workers foreigners? I had my mother in a nursing home where all but the activities leader and the RN were foreign-born whose English was poor to nonexistent. Making oneself understood by them was a task in itself. Made me wonder if the home care workers were equally challenging.

      • wigwag

        I have only my own experience to go by; I’ve had family members and friends assisted by home health care workers. Some needed long term assistance while others needed it only for a few weeks. The locations of the people using these services were New York, New Jersey and South Florida. I would say that most of the home health care workers were foreign born, but not all were. It’s only a generalization and there were exceptions, but I would say that for the most part, though they had poorer communications skills, the foreign born home health care workers were more attentive, diligent and respectful of their elderly patients than the American born home health care workers were.

  • Corlyss

    So that’s what’s to become of America: we’re “evolving” into a care industry with a military (and we won’t have that for long at the rate the peaceniks and the budget hawks are collapsing it).

    • Jim__L

      “Imperial overstretch” is dead. We’re going through a period where great powers will fall because their social spending bankrupts them, not because their military expenditures are too big.

  • Christopher Perrey

    I’d wager most of these jobs are in the insurance/regulatory oversight positions (“our new overlords”) or more menial-type positions in the medical field (cleaning, bedpans, etc.).

    Given the medical device tax, regulatory overhead, and low returns on investment, these positions are certainly not in the medical device/pharma industry with good-paying R&D positions.

  • USNK2

    I am self-censoring my comment on Mr. Mead’s delusions about health care into: may he have all of his good doctors drop him when he gets stuck with Medicare, and may he then enter the bizarro world where a vacation in Syria seems like a better solution than ever going to another nursepractitioner again.

  • Boritz

    The jobs of the future may be in this sector, or that sector, or yet again some other sector, but there is no doubt that more jobs will be part-time and lacking good benefits.

  • Jim__L

    If more people are collecting paychecks (especially “good paychecks”), that means the system is getting more expensive.

    More expensive is something we aren’t going to be able to handle.

    That blue line is likely to see a dip of its own, in the next decade or two.

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