Seven out of ten women to be impacted by snapback of childcare fees

- June 1, 2020 3 MIN READ
  • 70 per cent of parents report the Government’s fee-free childcare as having a positive impact on their family’s financial position.
  • 63 per cent of parents who have lost income will be forced to reduce days or remove children from childcare altogether if fees go back.
  • 42 per cent of families have at least one parent earning less as a result of COVID with 16 per cent of respondents reporting both parents have seen reduced income.
  • 68 per cent of the parents forced to reducing work hours to look after children are women.

A national survey by family advocacy service, The Parenthood, has revealed seven out of ten women will be negatively impacted by the government’s plan to snap back childcare fees to normal on June 30.

The survey of 2200 families found 60 per cent of households currently using childcare will have a parent forced to reduce work when full childcare fees return. In 68 per cent of families, the parent who will stop or reduce work will be a woman.

Georgie Dent, The Parenthood’s National Campaign Director said the flow on effect will be disastrous for the nation’s working women. Dent suggests the return to out of pocket fees will undermine the Prime Minister’s stated ambition to ensure women’s workforce participation in Australia remains high in the COVID19 economic recovery.

“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,” said Dent,

“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.”

The survey findings also reported almost half (42 per cent) of families have at least one parent earning less as a result of COVID, with 16 per cent of respondents reporting both parents have seen income reduced. A third of parents (34 per cent) reported they will need to reduce days or remove their children altogether if out-of-pocket fees come back to pre-COVID days.

Seven out of ten families said the government’s fee free childcare had a positive impact on family finances. While a move back to full fees would negatively impact many families already struggling with the burden of reduced income.

63 per cent of respondants said they will be forced to reduce days or remove their children from child cate if fees go back to normal. For those families who will need to reduce the number of days their child(ren) are in Early Childhood Education Centre, 60 per cent will have at least one parent then need to reduce work. Women will shoulder the lion’s share of this burden with over two-thirds of households having the woman reduce or stop their work. A third of parents (32 per cent) who will need to reduce days have already had their employment negatively affected by COVID.

“These findings illustrate how significantly different the financial situation is for so many families right now compared to a few months ago,” Dent said. “Almost 80 per cent of parents said that even before COVID19 they had considered whether it was worth working full-time at all because of the cost of childcare.

“Considering the scale of job losses and income reductions now being experienced the fees will simply become prohibitive and the activity test will further punish families where one or more parent has lost work.”

Dent suggests ECEC services could not operate viably if a third of families pull their children from care. The move would result in mass closures.

“A PWC report commissioned by The Front Project published last year concluded that $2 of benefits flow for every $1 spent on early childhood education,” Ms Dent said. “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. From that $4.74 billion in benefits were associated with providing this one year of early childhood education.”

The Parenthood is urging the government to extend the relief package with a number of key amendments to ensure family day services can operate, increase the subsidy paid to centres and ensure workers ineligible for JobKeeper are offered assistance.

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