Childcare is a major expense for families and the government. With some families paying $200 a day for a single child, this great expense must be questioned. Is it worthwhile spending such a great amount of money on childcare?
In short … yes! For many years it has been acknowledged that every dollar a government invests in early years education can, under the right conditions, return two dollars to the economy. Furthermore, organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the positive effect the availability suitable childcare can have.
Summarising Jennifer Baxter’s Flexible child care and Australian parents’ work and care decision-making study, we look at the effect of childcare on working parents, and how that affects output.
Through this study, we explore the effect of suitable childcare on parents ability to return to work after having a child, how a lack of childcare can negatively affect your performance at work, as well as childcare solutions.
A value proposition – Parents choosing family over work
Today, parents have shown that parents consistently arrange their employment around their childcare options, often seeking work that offers flexible hours or is near their preferred childcare provider.
When suitable childcare is not available, parents tend to reduce their hours, stop working altogether or come up with creative, but imperfect solutions.
An example of such a solution is one parent working night shifts, while the other works day shifts. This ensures that one parent is always around, but reduces the amount of time the family unit spends together and leaves little time for the night shift worker to rest.
It is therefore in an employer’s interest to assist employees find childcare, decreasing the likelihood of turnover and part-time work arrangements.
Unsuitable childcare arrangements – The negative effect
Unsuitable childcare arrangements make it very difficult for parents to maintain a healthy work-family balance, resulting in stress.
With a lack of alternate options, a parent may be forced to leave their child with a childcare provider they are not completely comfortable with. On the other hand, another parent working long hours may need forced to find a relative or friend to pick up their child from daycare before it closes each day.
This stress has a tangible effect on parents’ performance, increasing absenteeism, turnover and part time work arrangements, while also decreasing employee engagement. Ultimately, this means that it is very much in employers’ interest to assist employees find suitable childcare.
Suitable childcare – The benefit
On the other hand, suitable childcare gives parents the ability to leave their children in safe hands while they work, and feel comfortable doing so. This type of care arrangement is also flexible, allowing parents to work longer hours if required.
While suitable childcare can be solely provided by a childcare centre, it is more often a result of a collaborative effort between parents, relatives, friends and/or childcare providers.
Either way, suitable childcare allows parents who work full-time to achieve a healthy work-life balance. This eliminates a major source of stress for working parents, allowing them to perform to their full-potential.
Childcare – Should there be a charge?
As Australia emerges from it’s COVID-19 hibernation, where for many weeks, with the aim of preventing the early years industry from collapsing entirely (while concerned families rushed to withdraw their child from care amidst the great unknown of Coronavirus), childcare has been declared free by the Australian Government. To say this has been an awakening experience for families who’ve previously paid up to $200 a day for the care and education of their child is a massive understatement.
On the other hand, early years services have publicly struggled with this decision, and are therefore not great advocates of free childcare, claiming their businesses have barely survived the experience on significantly less income.
What remains to be seen is how this scenario will play out in the long run. Childcare costs in Australia are high in comparison to countries around the world. To read further on this issue, The Grattan Institute have put some solid research together. Their conclusion… it’s high time Australian childcare costs were reformed.
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