The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has called for the government to continue with free child care beyond the June 30 cutoff, describing it as an essential service.
Carnell believes snapping back the service to its pre-COVID offering would severely impact working women and female-led businesses.
“Women make up more than a third of Australia’s small business owners (35 per cent) and more than 5 million women work in these businesses,” Carnell says.
“The latest ABS labour force data shows women have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis, with the female workforce participation rate falling to 58.4% in April.”
Carnell suggests many women who are still working and running their businesses are relying on JobKeeper payments, which will not cover childcare fees if they are reinstated in full from July 1.
“This could force mothers out of their jobs, which is detrimental to working families and even worse for the economy. Now is the time for the government to be considering innovative ways to increase participation rates for women to ensure productivity gains and to benefit businesses,” insists Carnell.
Carnell believes the government should phase in an expanded subsidy scheme for childcare as recommended by the Grattan Institute. The ombudsman believes the nation would benefit with higher participation by women in the workforce and boost the economy to boot.
“Economists have often referred to the ‘double dividend’ of childcare increasing workforce participation rates and providing early education. Equally, the government needs to look at supporting childcare centres, many of which are small businesses, which have suffered losses due to the structure of the current measures.
“Despite the struggles, some of these childcare centres have had with the current package, many are warning of dire consequences for their businesses if there is a sudden snap-back in a month’s time.
Carnell says there is now a golden opportunity for the government to completely re-think the childcare system.
“Small business and the Australian economy depends on it.”
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