A return to pre-COVID childcare fees will force women out of work

A return to pre-COVID childcare fees will force women out of work


More than half of families using early childhood education and care who have lost income will see one parent forced to reduce paid work if childcare fees return in full in July. This will be particularly detrimental to women’s workforce participation, with 68 per cent of those families indicating the parent who will reduce, or potentially stop, work will be a woman.

This troubling scenario was captured in the full results from a national survey of 2,200 families by leading parent advocacy group The Parenthood.

They are urging the government to extend the childcare relief package with a number of amendments that will help ensure services, and particularly family day care services, can operate and that workers are supported.

Almost half of families surveyed report that one parent is already earning less as result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 16 per cent of respondents reporting both parents have seen income reduced.

A third of parents have indicated they will reduce days or remove their children from care altogether if out-of-pocket childcare fees are returned to pre-COVID levels.

Among parents with an already reduced income, a striking 63 percent will be forced to reduce days or remove children from care altogether.

The flow on effect for women will be detrimental and undermine the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s stated ambition to keep women’s workforce participation levels high as Australia’s economy begins to recover from the pandemic.

“Given increasing women’s workforce participation is one of the most effective ways to boost a nation’s GDP we cannot afford a mass exit of women at this point,” Georgie Dent, The Parenthood’s National Campaign Director said. “Unemployment is enough of an issue as it is, without any other Australian who is fortunate enough to still be employed being forced to step back or out of work altogether because they cannot afford to pay for the care and education their children need.” 

According to The Parenthood, even before COVID19 three quarters of parents had considered whether it was worth working full-time at all because of childcare costs.

These results are catastrophic for early childhood education and care services, which cannot operate viably if a third of families pull their children from care. Mass closures will be the result.

A ‘snap back’ to the old system is simply not viable considering how much more precarious many families’ financial outlooks are compared to just a few months ago. And when the flow on benefits of early childhood education and care are considered, returning to the old system becomes even less viable.

A PWC report commissioned by The Front Project published in 2019 showed that $2 of benefits flow for every $1 spent on early childhood education.

“In 2017, for example, there were $2.34 billion in costs associated with the provision of 15 hours of early childhood education in the year-before-school,” Georgie Dent said.

“From that $4.74 billion in benefits were associated with providing this one year of early childhood education.”

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