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The childcare debate: rising costs and means-testing

Lots of coverage in the news over the last two days about the rising cost of childcare. Headline figures released by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling are pretty alarming and I am concerned about the impact on women returning to work and current working mothers:

  • Average cost of childcare in Australia has risen by 150% since 2003
  • Mums are loosing about two-thirds of pay to childcare
  • Childcare payments could be means-tested
  • The average family will still be out of pocket almost $5000 each year.

The report on childcare affordability reveals a sharp rise in childcare costs over the past decade with an average cost of $120 a day. I took my child out of long-day care last year as the costs kept on going up. By the end we were paying $135 a day. She now attends a community preschool but even it has seen a 48.7% increase in the daily fee over a two-year period – that is, from $39 per day in June 2012 to $58 per day in July 2014.

The Federal Government has stated that the current system of childcare rebate capped at $7500 is unsustainable. A draft report by the Productivity Commission reveals that childcare payments could be means-tested. This could be extremely prohibitive for most mums to return to work.

I have heard so many stories from friends who have been put under pressure to return to work for more than their intended three days a week. That means more days in care or employing a nanny. Once you are four-days or full-time you reach the $7500 cap (rebate currently does not cover nannies) very quickly so you need a very good salary to justify working. With the rising cost of living I think the government need to think about what is “sustainable”… Could these spiralling costs and means-testing force some women out of the workplace?

I am a huge advocate for working mums. I don’t think you could have a more hard-working, dedicated, tenacious employee than a mum who really wants to be at work. People criticise working mums for all the wrong reasons but I believe that they are a huge benefit to the work force. The government should be working towards helping them stay there, not making it even more difficult for them.

From the moment they get to work a mum does not stop – no time for gossiping or long-lunch breaks as they know that they have to leave on time to collect the kids; plus being a mum has instilled us with a second to none work ethic – multi-tasking a given – a mum is also a diplomat, skilled in time-sensitive situations, has the ability to thrive under pressure, crisis management plus can function on very little sleep; probably won’t take a lunch break and will never be hung-over.

We would be interested to hear your thoughts on the proposed childcare reforms.

Do you think childcare is too expensive?

Do you think childcare fees should be means-tested?

 


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