Australian Economy

High childcare costs hold back women

For the fourth day, this jumps to 67 per cent, made up of 36 per cent in tax and 31 per cent in extra childcare fees. This rises to 70 per cent for the fifth day, made up of 35 per cent each for tax and additional childcare fees.

“The proportion of women in the workforce has risen to a record high of 60 per cent, but it remains well below comparable countries,” Professor Stewart said.

Conscious underemployment by professional women, whereby they take on jobs that make caring for children less arduous, and Australian women working among the highest rates of part-time work for developed countries were both big drains on the economy, she added.

The high cost of childcare meant women were missing out on career progression, economic security, retirement savings and ability to afford housing, Professor Stewart said.

A calculator on the KindiCare website reveals a family earning $180,000 a year with two children in long day care at $130 a day each would pay $900.52 in out-of-pocket expenses each week. Under Labor’s policy that would be reduced to $792.81. For wealthier families earning $350,000 a year, the cost would be $1085.17 under the Coalition and $986.86 under Labor.

Georgie Dent, executive director of The Parenthood, said unaffordable childcare was costly for both individual families and the economy.

“Out-of-pocket costs for early learning are up 14.7 per cent since May 2019, Ms Dent said.

“For most working families, after housing, early learning is the biggest source of financial pain, and it is simply unaffordable and unsustainable.”

Changes to childcare subsidies from the Coalition implemented in March made childcare less costly for families with two children in care.

Labor has matched those changes and made subsidies at the lower end of the income spectrum while expanding the income range to $530,000. Under the Coalition families earning more than $350,000 no longer qualify for any subsidy.

A report for Chief Executive Women found that halving the workforce participation gap between men and women would represent an additional 500,000 full-time skilled workers with post school qualifications. Job vacancies hit a record 423,500 in February 2022.

Sue Morphet, immediate past president of Chief Executive Women, said the high cost of childcare was driving highly skilled and highly educated women out of the workforce.

“Last year, more than 90,000 parents opted out of the workforce completely, because of the cost of early education – at a time when we know families are feeling the pinch as the cost-of-living rises,” she said.

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