Balancing child care needs with work commitments is becoming an increasingly difficult task for many Australian families, many of whom are faced with stark choices between part time child care or full employment, full time child care or part time employment. Everybody’s circumstances differ and which one is right for you will depend upon your own personal circumstances as well as the overall cost and any benefits that you may be entitled to.
According to a study by the Mitchell Institute, the average Australian family on an average Australian wage spends almost $6000 per annum on childcare and that’s a significant sum for any family budget. While the upfront cost can be quite a shock to some, it is worth remembering that it is estimated that children who spend significant amounts of time in childcare are on average expected to be about 6-8 months ahead in their development compared to children who do not attend significant time in childcare.
While there are some government childcare subsidies available for some families, in most cases, some costs will still need to be borne by the family.
According to the OECD, Australia has the fourth highest rate of part time workers in the developed world and all indications suggest that this trend will likely continue for the foreseeable future. The need for both full and part time child care facilities to support this growth has grown accordingly. The Australian Federal Government has attempted to support the childcare industry by providing support in the form of childcare subsidies however, as demand increases the ready availability of quality childcare will become an increasingly pressing issue.
The availability of childcare needs to be considered by both governments at all levels and by families when choosing a place to settle.
From the nation’s perspective, providing access to quality full time child care and part time child care makes good economic sense. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in a literature review of the impact of Early Childhood Education and Care on early learning and development concluded that the provision of quality care in early childhood education is the key driver of positive developmental outcomes. Further studies have demonstrated that children who access quality early childhood programs have better learning outcomes as well as having greater social competence, a wider vocabulary and better self-control. When you align this finding with the findings of the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University that two years preschool learning were better than one it becomes evident that getting the provision of quality childcare right is something that governments simply have to get right.
Providing the means of access to child care full time if required should empower families of all demographic levels to seek employment for both adult partners without having to jeopardize their income earning potential.
Whether you need full time child care or simply need to access part time child care, you will most likely find places difficult to get and while you may be able to get some government support for your situation, in all likelihood, you can anticipate that there will be some costs involved.