With childcare too expensive and too difficult to get into, an increasing number of parents are turning to the old fashioned method of childcare: their own parents.
Research out today shows that grandparents help out with childcare for half of all children one day a week. For a quarter of children, this happens twice a week.
A study of 8000 children by the Australian Institute of Family Studies — using longitudinal data from the Growing Up Australia program — has revealed that 17 per cent of children aged 4-5 have experienced some form of grandparent care for most of their life.
And seven per cent of 4-5 year olds actually live with both their parents and grandparents in the same household.
The study found that maternal grandparents were more likely to be providing childcare than paternal grandparents. But as life got busier and children grew older, time with their grandparents declined.
AIFS senior research fellow Jennifer Baxter told The Australian it was more common for families with live-in grandparents to be single parents or speak a language other than English at home, but the arrangement could benefit all generations.
“It may be that a grandparent is living with the family because they need support and assistance, or simply to allow for family members to spend time together and develop relationships,” Dr Baxter said.
“However, the study indicates that co-resident grandparents are providing some support to children and parents, particularly assistance with housing or financial support for a period of time.
Just five per cent of grandparents are paid by their children and only one per cent of grandparent carers are registered for the Child Care Benefit.
Anyone with grandparents nearby willing to dip in and help with childcare either on a regular basis or in an emergency knows the massive sacrifice this generation makes. Retirement plans are often put on hold while they go back to performing tasks they thought were behind them.
For a few families a form of formal compensation exists whereby grandparents are paid a token amount by the parents to help them out, but millions of others are simply expected to do it out of love.
Last year Independent senator Glenn Lazarus and Jackie Lambie floated the idea for a “grandparent payment” whereby grandparents would be financially rewarded for looking after the children of working parents.
It was shot down despite the fact traditional carers, mothers, have increased their workforce participation -- as is, of course, actively encouraged by both sides of politics.