Rising Childcare Costs Sees Parents Unable to Afford to Work

The Federal Government introduced the childcare subsidy (CSS) last year, which promised to save money for 1 million families. However, many Australian childcare centres ‘coincidentally’ increased their fees at the same time. Despite the new scheme’s promises, parents have again recently been hit with up to a 4.5% increase in fees.

Parents can’t afford to go back to work

A key objective of the childcare subsidy changes was to increase workforce participation. But, for many families, the rapidly increasing childcare costs mean that they are actually losing money when they return to work.

This is usually the mother returning from maternity leave, and they’re finding that they simply can’t afford to work, particularly when they have more than one child.

Some centres are now charging an enormous $141 per day per child, and even more in certain locations around Australia. In addition to the annual increases, these recent fee hikes are independently determined by the centres themselves.

The reason for the fee increases, according to childcare centres

Goodstart, Australia’s largest childcare operator, claim in this statement that increased rental costs, industry wages, educator requirements, and ratio sizes are the reasons behind this ‘unavoidable’ rise in childcare costs.

Childcare subsidy changes aren’t delivering promised savings

Because the government doesn’t regulate these centre fee increases, parents often don’t experience the benefit of the new subsidy.

A recent report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) has found that the CSS has had a negative impact on 1 in 3 families, who are paying more now in childcare costs. Another third are paying the same now as they were before the scheme was introduced.

Alternative childcare options that could be more affordable

For parents needing or wanting to return to work, but the cost of childcare is holding them back, there are several alternative options:

  • A nanny can be more affordable than a childcare centre in the case of families with two or more children. A nanny charges between $25-$35 per hour, depending on experience, location, and age of children. Hiring a nanny can also be more convenient. Their hours are determined by the parent’s work schedule, making it ideal for those who do not work within centre hours. Typically, a nanny will also take care of the children’s laundry and meals.
  • A nanny share is when a nanny cares for the children of two families. The children receive valuable socialisation opportunities, while the parents can split the costs (making it around $15-$20 per hour per family).
  • Working from home occasionally could be a possibility for some. If a workplace allows its staff some flexibility, work can take place instead during naps, evenings, and weekends, eliminating the need for childcare.
  • Childcare swap. An agreement could be made between friends to care for each other’s children on certain days. Or asking family members to help when possible is another option.
  • Free creches are often a facility attached to recreation or fitness centres. Members pay a small weekly fee to use it, and instead of working out, it could be an ideal opportunity to get some work done.
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