On Sunday, the federal government announced a $1.7 billion investment in its childcare subsidy ahead of the upcoming budget.
Under the changes, the childcare subsidy for families with two or more children aged five and under will increase up to 95 per cent, up from the current 85 per cent. The government said this change will benefit 250,00 families with more than one child, who currently face a doubling of fees once a second child enters subsidised childcare.
The government has also said it will scrap a $10, 560 cap on the childcare subsidy, benefiting higher income families. The changes will not come into effect for more than a year, in July 2022.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the changes will “provide greater choices to parents who want to work an extra day or two a week” and is designed to increase workforce participation of parents, while also providing a boost to the overall economy.
Speaking to the Project TV on Sunday night, Executive Director of The Parenthood Georgie Dent said the package is a step in the right direction, but overall, it is insufficient to create the systemic change that is really need in Australia’s early education and care system.
It’s no secret the Morrison Government has a women problem. Last year’s budget was seen as a major letdown. Today’s announcement of more funding to childcare is being welcomed as a step in the right direction, but many say more is needed. pic.twitter.com/y9rotyjZB0— The Project (@theprojecttv) May 2, 2021
Dent said the fee relief for some families is not a “significant spend that is going to transform the funding of early childhood education and care.”
“We know that it will benefit 250,000 families, but one million families in Australia currently use early childhood education and care, and we know that those families are spending some of the highest out of pocket fees for childcare in the world,” Dent said.
“We know that the past reforms that this government brought in, in 2018, to directly address the issue of affordability and six years on the changes have been completely eradicated so families in Brisbane and Sydney now spend 23 per cent more on childcare than they did in 2018, when those reforms came into play.”
While fee relief will help boost parents’ workforce participation rates, the changes to childcare do not address many issues that exist in the early education and care system in Australia, including the poor remuneration of early childhood teachers and educators, and universal access to high quality early education for every child.
The measures are part of the government’s new effort to consider women in its upcoming budget, after many months of criticism for its handling of wider issues that affect Australian women, and a previous budget that was criticised for being gender blind and disproportionately benefitting men.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, whose party previously announced a more generous new policy on childcare, said the government’s policy does not address the wider issue of rising childcare costs.
“This does nothing to move towards a universal, affordable child care system, something that Labor says we need to do, because child care is not about welfare,” Albanese said.
“Childcare is about providing an essential service, which boosts our economy and is essential economic reform.”