Childcare: Not a woman's issue, a family one | Women's Agenda

Childcare: Not a woman’s issue, a family one

“The childcare costs are not worth it!” is a comment plenty of mothers in relationships often say about returning to work. We agree that childcare costs are ridiculously expensive. But according to Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, the Editor and Co-founder of Financy, we need to seriously rethink how we talk about it.

Childcare costs might be expensive, but this is not just a woman’s money issue, it’s a family one and where possible we need to change the way we talk about it.

Ideally women, or men who are primary carers of their children, need to feel encouraged and supported to return to work.

Yet some women in relationships often talk about the cost of childcare like it’s something that only comes out of their pay – and this can be damaging to their financial futures.

Others will even go as far as saying that it’s just not worth their while to work, because childcare costs are too expensive. This is explored in this report on news.com.au

But where a family has more than one income, regardless of the dynamics, it’s time to change the conversation around childcare costs and spread the love.

It’s estimated that childcare costs range from $70 a day, to $120 and up to $170 for some Sydney childcare centres. So for five days in care you might pay $350 right up to $850 a week.

There’s no doubt that the cost of attending the best childcare centres, without taking rebates into account, is similar to the average gross weekly ordinary time earnings of women working full-time were $1,325.10 per week, according to data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

Indeed where women, or men are the primary carer and are sending their kids to childcare, the cost benefits might be slim.

The Australian National University (ANU) study, commissioned by a leading childcare provider, found a working mother could lose up to two-thirds of her gross earnings in tax and childcare fees. Read more on that here.

But where a partner is involved, it’s time to change the conversation and look at the family income, plus any employer superannuation contributions.

According to the WGEA the average man earns a weekly wage of $1,602.80 per week, making women’s average earnings $277.70 per week less.

Both of these amounts include tax and the minimum 9.5 per cent employer superannuation payment, which may not mean much to you now, but with the benefit of compounding it could mean significant more in retirement.

If a person delays returning to work, or working for themselves, and therefore stalls any superannuation contributions over this time because of childcare costs, then this will only make life harder come retirement.

Women already retire on 50 per cent less than men, largely because of time spent out of the workforce caring for loved ones, or working part-time or in casual positions which don’t have to pay super.

But we also know that because of this, single elderly women are more likely then men to retire in poverty.

So when talking about childcare costs, yes it might be expensive, yes more support is needed at a government level, but where women are in dual income families, it’s time to change the conversation around so that women feel encouraged to get back into the workforce.

Government rebates also need to be taken into account. For instance, a 50 per cent government rebate is available to offset childcare expenses depending on your household income.

If you earn over $154,000 for one child then you may not be eligible but check out the income test limits here.

Another factor to consider before heaping childcare costs into a woman’s only basket is the cost of primary and secondary schools.

Outside of the government’s rebates, childcare costs can be similar to that of paying fees at some of the country’s most prestigious high schools.

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