WHAT would free childcare mean for Australia?
We all stand to benefit from the provision of quality early childhood education and care. While what’s happening in countries like Finland, Sweden and Japan does not necessarily reflect the circumstances of Australian society, it is clear that when countries offer free and accessible childcare and pay childcare workers well, their societies thrive in every sense.
90% of brain development occurs in the first five years of a child’s life (NSW Government, 2020).
There are a range of cognitive benefits and social/emotional impacts for children who have access to quality childcare including: better language and communication skills, numeracy skills, memory, judgement, reasoning, and understanding and managing emotions. There is also a strong evidence base to show that education is a strong predictor of an individual’s earnings, health and wellbeing over their lifetime. This is a right that all children deserve, not just those whose parents can afford it.
For more on the benefits of early childhood education and care for children:
31% of Australian household income is spent on childcare, double the OECD average.
We know that when childcare costs rise so too does financial stress, and workforce participation falls, which can have a long lasting impact on the earnings of parents and carers. Eliminating the cost of childcare would be one of the single most effective ways to support Australian families.
Eliminating childcare costs removes a major barrier for returning to work.
Imagine generating 30,000 additional work days per week for the economy by better supporting parents to get back to work. That’s what is possible simply by revamping the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), making reform worth almost twice the cost in government spending.
Access to quality childcare is a key driver of productivity, evens the playing field for workers, and improves access to the best talent pool of job applicants. Free childcare makes good business sense, and is why Australian businesses are getting behind the movement to ‘Make it Free’.
FOR THE GOVERNMENT
Better access to childcare = $10.3 bn increase in GDP by 2050 (PwC, 2014).
Along with children, families and the economy, the government stands to be one of the biggest long-term beneficiaries of quality childcare. Higher taxes paid by parents and carers who are able to work more, and children who earn more over their lifetimes, as well as significant health and wellbeing benefits for kids (especially for those from vulnerable backgrounds) are just some of the reasons why reforming the ECEC system and Child Care Subsidy is firmly in the government’s best interests.
For equality, and for our future
Women make up 97% of childcare workers and do 72% of unpaid care work.
As the doers of 72% of unpaid care work (exacerbated by the pandemic) and 97% of the workers in an industry that is chronically underpaid and undervalued, which compounds in retirement, women continue to be put on the back foot by a broken ECEC system at every turn. It’s time to even the playing field.
The pay gap starts for women as soon as they enter the workforce, yet the gap considerably increases when they have children, known as ‘the motherhood penalty’. Women are typically primary carers and are disincentivised from working more in the paid workforce due to the prohibitive costs of childcare and a poorly structured Child Care Subsidy (CSS) scheme.
This can no longer be a ‘women’s issue’. Making childcare free and reforming the Child Care Subsidy would mean more women can return to work, provide for their families and contribute to the economy, and would be a major step towards greater gender equality and inclusion.
We, the undersigned citizens and businesses of Australia, are calling on the Government not to snap back free childcare, and instead to reform the Early Childhood Education and Care system and Child Care Subsidy by committing to:
Make childcare free permanently for every Australian family
Ensure that every Australian child has access to quality childcare
Pay early childhood educators and carers a fairer wage
Making it free, for good and for all, will create a positive impact on the social and economic situation of families, give the economy a much-needed boost, and build the foundations for future generations to thrive.
Let’s make it happen.