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HILDA survey reveals sweeping changes in childcare trends

Childcare use and costs are up, and grandparents are increasingly relied upon for child-minding. That’s a summary of the childcare section from the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, released today.

The annual survey of 17,000 people, which has been conducted since 2001, is a nationally representative longitudinal study of Australian households.

This year, the survey confirmed the obvious when it comes to childcare. In introducing the childcare statistics, Roger Wilkins, professorial research fellow and deputy director, research for the HILDA Survey, noted that childcare “has been a significant public policy issue for some years now, largely because of the steady growth in female employment participation since the 1970s”. Whilst he offered that government childcare subsidies have somewhat eased the cost-pressure of childcare, he conceded that “there is little doubt that access to affordable and high-quality childcare looms large in the minds of many parents with young children”.

This is especially pertinent, as the survey revealed that, for both couples and single parents, the use of childcare for kids under school age spiralled between 2002 and 2014 – the surveyed years.

HILDA data showed costs had also risen substantially. For couples, they escalated by 109 per cent between the surveyed years, and for singles, by 132 per cent.

Perhaps as a corollary of the general childcare fee increase, grandparents are in ever-more use as babysitters, by both couples and single parents. For singles, the contrast is stark. “There has, in fact, been a surge in lone parents’ use of grandparents since 2008,” Wilkins disclosed, referring to a growth of more than 10 percentage points over the surveyed years.

The HILDA survey is managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

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One comment

  1. The sad thing is that Federal Government funding to assist parents with their childcare fees has not kept pace with the increased cost of service delivery created by the ever changing then Federal Government and COAG led State Government legislated regulation changes.

    Might I also say that the there is no evidence worldwide to support the case for changing ratios of educators to children except for one research project carried out in the poorest part of Tennessee – what there is an abundance of evidence that supports the case for better social, emotional, developmental and educational outcomes for young children is the quality of the interactions between the educator and the children.

    I have been in the profession for many years and have concluded from attending many meetings, conferences, Government round table meetings of industry leaders and advocates at both state and federal level that the reason for these expensive to parents and tax payers early childhood regulation changes is that private childcare is anathema to the left in politics, (other than the Hawke and Keating Governments) teaching and the child care professions.

    Thus, their ploy is to advocate for ever more expensive regulations in order to price private child care out of existence so they can call on the government to build more community based centres but of course this will be at a huge cost to the tax payers of this nation as there will be no private operator to buy the land, build the buildings and pay for the ongoing maintenance and operations of the centres.

    Another group in the community that is being affected by these costly regulations is the grandparents who are increasingly being called upon to care for their grandchildren while their children go out to work and while it is admirable for grandparents to ‘care for’ their grandchildren their grandchildren are missing out on the vital early childhood education beginning with a brain linkages programme for babies that will give these children those vital building blocks necessary for school life and beyond considering that one in every four children in Australia are not ready for school when they are beginning school and the statistics show that these children never catch up.

    Considering the Perry Preschool Report confirms that for every $1 spent (or invested) by government on early childhood education the Government and taxpayers receive a return of $17 it is time the Federal Government increased the funding for families and do it now and not wait until July 2018 and not do it only if the Parliament passes legislation to remove Family Tax Benefit Part B and to importantly include all children and not only those whose parents meet the work and study test.

    If we want Australia to be a smart country where innovation can reign supreme and jobs and growth can occur in abundance we need to begin with educating our babies and young children.

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