Thursday, April 14, 2011

The cost of childcare and going back to work

I have noticed that a common view held by mums is that if your salary does not cover the cost of childcare, it is not worth going back to work. I think this view needs to be challenged for the following reasons:

1. Your experience and desire to work should not be ignored or compromised. You have invested in your education and have built up a strong career. You should not be made to feel like you have to sacrifice your career. The longer you stay out of the workplace, the more challenging it is to return. Childcare is required for a finite period of time (at the most, 4 years). You can access a 50% childcare rebate (not means tested). You may also be able to tap into your extended family to assist your family with caring duties.

2. The cost of childcare should not be associated with your salary only. View it as an expense that needs to be covered by your combined salary (you AND your partner's salary). This expense is necessary to mantain your skills and support your future earning capacity.

I have no doubt that the cost of care is a huge problem for families. The Federal Government offers a 50% childcare rebate but they have no long term solutions for the rising cost of childcare. This is because most childcare centres are privately owned. This in turn impacts on the skills shortage in this country - the cost of care is forcing many people to stay at home rather than work.

If you can make it work as a family, and you want to return to paid work, I would encourage you to do it. I have met and spoken to too many women who have opted to leave the workforce for a longer period of time and have subsequently lost their confidence to return to paid employment.


Penny said...

While I went back to work for my career, it's not just child care costs that make up this equation. We had to consider tolls (thanks to living in Sydney), petrol etc. Tolls were $400 a month alone! At one point, we were losing money, as my husband had a career change which meant a drop in income. These are all considerations that unfortunately still means that some mums can't see the point in returning to work when their bank account keeps dropping. And I can understand that.

Anonymous said...

For your "average" family, then yes, the points made are valid.
However, for me, those things are of huge concern.
Firstly, I've never worked before. I was very young when I had my son & have struggled to even afford to study.
Secondly, I'm a single parent. There is NO other income in my house.
If my income isn't going to cover all the bills I currently have, plus the extra I'd be paying in childcare (I get 100% rebate on Centrelink) then it's not worth trying to get a job.
Thirdly, my lack of skills really does make it almost impossible to get a job that will pay enough from the start to cover everything.
Unfortunately I have no option other than to wait for my child to be of school age to study or start working, & even then I'll be limited in what I can do.

Anonymous said...

I see your point, I am just not returning to full time work, I don't want to work full time not only for the child care costs but because of the impact on our family life, I hope to find a better part time job asap. I think it is wrong that working families have to pay so much for child care yet if your not working it is so cheap and yes you might only get 24 hours a week care but even if one parent is working full time you can get the 50hrs for next to nothing, our government doesn't make it easy for alot of mothers to bother going back to work at all

Dee said...

In addition to Penny's remarks, perhaps those Mums site this as their reason but perhaps it simply the most surface / easy to explain reason but is it possible that there are many and more complex reasons beneath this.
As a recently single parent due to separation myself, it make no sense to me to go to work and outsource raising my children (my choices must not be taken to imply others should choose the same path) during such a difficult time. When working and raising I found there's so much rushing at the beginning and end of the day which ultimately leaves little time to really monitor everyone's mental health. Also, if all mothers were to be in the workforce who would do the volunteer tasks that are needed in every community like school reading, organising fundraising, assisting friend's families who are in a tight spot. The argument put forward above is very one sided and although I was in part time work till recently and ultimately intend to return to the workforce, there seems to be little attention placed on the lack of community cohesiveness that has come as a result of most women now being in the workforce. A tangible example of the loss felt in communities is in Social capital - Google it and you'll find a lot of links made between people's levels of happiness and direct involvement in their local community. In fact the federal govt is now funding social inclusion in recognition of its value to the well being of all in local communities and ultimately Australia at large. Now, it's pretty hard to get to know a variety of people in one's neighbourhood if one is at work 5 days a week, then focussing on family requirements for the weekend. 60 years ago most houses had a mother at home and they knew each other and in general helped each other out.
Now, I'm not suggesting all women stop stop work to take up community activities, but alternatively, that there are a LOT more issues at play here than getting women into the workforce at all cost and communities benefit a great deal when parents choose child raising activities in their community in preference to full or part-time work and childcare. Mothers who choose to stay home give benefit to the WHOLE community and therefore CONTINUE contributing to their own AND Australia's wellbeing regardless of whether they are at home or in the workplace. Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Childcare doesn't stop when kids start school.If you work full time or even part time,you still need someone to care for the children after school and maybe before school.This all adds up,I am not sure if there is a rebate for this,it still has to be paid up front.Then there are the school holidays which don't equal what workers are entited to a year.12 weeks a year for kids 4 weeks a year for working people.How are working parents meant to care for kids,then of course there are the pupil free days.Maybe it is OK when kids are old enough to care for themselves but at least for the first 6-7 years of school these things have to be considered.

Davina said...

All well and good if you have a partner. I have found some of your articles of interest and use. However there are very much written from the bias of a middle class female with a partner. Given that a large percentage of families are single parents both female and male maybe you might like to include this.

Whilst I agree that working is good for everyone. If like in my case you have two children who required childcare, simply the outgoings would not cover the benefit of working until the children were older.

For your information I am post graduate with professional marketing qualifications.

Beverley Eikli said...

I live in Gisborne which is not too far from Melbourne but during peak hour can mean a commute of 90 minutes to 2 hours each way. Having lived overseas for some years previously, the city was the place to find work though I'd have loved to find something rural that suited my skills. (I'm a journalist/editor/proofreader/ESL teacher.)For a year I commuted 2-3 days a week and often wouldn't make it back home before the childcare centre closed. My husband is a pilot and away for days at a time, so I'd have to make desperate phone calls to friends while I was stuck in traffic on the Bolte Bridge. When the language school where I was teaching closed down I decided not to look for work until my youngest was at school. It was too hard.

Anonymous said...

Financial considerations are a significant component of the decision to return to work, and when. The federal government is now looking at means testing the child care rebate. There are other things to consider in addition to the income of a family. As "Penny" said she incurred $400/month in tolls. Housing affordability (in Sydney), time and costs associated with travel to work, location, availability and costs of day care centres, medical expenses for family members etc. At times it feels like working parents in particular are the 'working poor' - it seems if you make the decision to work and you fall just above the government threshold for rebates/benefits etc, then you are disadvantaged. While there are advantages of returning to work after chldren, many parents will find themselves in circumstances where financially, health and otherwise, that it is not in their best interest to return.