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Childcare costs and waiting lists driving you mad? You are not alone.

Finding childcare is impossible. One centre actually laughed when I used the phrase “ as soon as possible”.

It’s a common scenario when you first get those two little lines on the pregnancy test.

First step: squeal with delight/choke with shock. Second step: Try to put your child’s name down for childcare. Third step: tell your partner. 

Having recently gone back to work after having three kids over a short period of time, I faced the terrifying situation of finding childcare.I hit a dead end. One centre actually laughed when I used the phrase “ as soon as possible”.

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by My Super Nanny. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their words.

Having worked freelance for the last few years I had only heard about this so-called childcare shortage. Sure I knew it would be tough, but I thought that surely there would be something – but was I kidding myself. I was lucky – working for a very flexible employer (thanks Mamamia) I’ve managed to fit my work into the hours before my kids get up, and after they go to bed. So I * happily * set my alarm for 3.40am every day and start work then, setting off to my “office” in my PJs and ugghhs, hoping that I won’t wake up my kids.

Other women though are not so lucky. Because other employers are not so flexible.

Is a lack of childcare forcing you out of work?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census, there are 3.4 million Australian women who are NOT participating in our workforce. And one of the main factors prohibiting women from working is a lack of available, affordable and convenient childcare.

In fact ABS data shows that childcare costs for parents have increased by 44 per cent over the last six years.

A recent report showed that childcare costs could double for thousands of parents after the Government announced they would freeze the maximum amount that families could claim for the childcare rebate until 2017.

Of course a lack of childcare has a whole raft of other economic issues as well. With women not participating in the workforce our economy suffers.

Economists worldwide have expressed concern over countries with a low rate of female employment and how they will cope in the future when these women hit retirement and have no superannuation.

In 2006, The Economist Magazine famously stated “Forget China, India and the Internet – economic growth is driven by women”.

But in the seven years since they said this the main factor in getting women into the workforce – childcare – is an even greater issue.

A COAG report Tracking Equity: Comparing Outcomes for Women and Girls across Australia released this month pointed to the relatively low rates of participation in the workforce by Australian women compared with similar developed countries. The reports authors stressed the importance of having affordable and accessible childcare on women’s participation in the workplace.

How long have you been on the childcare wait list?

Nationwide it’s a problem. With waiting lists in some states hitting the three-year mark. Anecdotally parents tend to use a whole combination of care – nannies, grandparents, baby sitters, family day care, and structured child care environments.

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The Federal Government recently announced a productivity inquiry into the childcare system.

It would cover childcare assistance, tax breaks for nannies, workplace childcare and after-school care, the report said.

The inquiry would seek fresh ideas within the “current funding parameters” of the $5 billion-a-year childcare rebate and childcare benefit, raising fears the Productivity Commission might consider means-testing of the 50 per cent rebate. The PC review will report by October next year and will look outside the 9-5 weekday model to long daycare, family daycare, after-school care, nannies, au pairs, childcare at work and mobile childcare.

The report quoted Prime Minister Tony Abbott as saying: “Our childcare system should be responsive to the needs of today’s families and today’s economy, not the five-day 9am-5pm working week of last century. More flexible, affordable and accessible.’’

It’s all very well to have an inquiry a year away but this long-term problem is one that needs immediate solutions for parents.

Lucy Arkland is one such Mum who says she needs an answer now. She’s got two kids that need care, and having been on waiting lists for over 18 months, there is still no answer in sight for her.

Childcare is only getting tougher.

“I’m going back to work in January, and unless something comes through soon I might have to quit the job before I even start it. I can’t wait till October for the system to change I need it now.”

But for such a chronic long-term problem it seems there is no immediate answer. And in some cases, things are going to get even tougher next year with childcare centres raising their prices as they have to change their carer ratios.

Already prices in capital cities can be as high as $130 a day.

There is an age-old argument that women’s movement into the paid labour force can come at the expense of children.  How many times have we heard the argument “ why-can’t-the mother-just-stay-home-and-look-after-the-kids-like-my-mother-did”..

Well where do we start to answer that?

How about instead of getting all caught up in the emotional and logical answer to this let’s look at what The Economist said about it back in 2006.

“The evidence for this is mixed. For instance, a study by Suzanne Bianchi at Maryland University finds that mothers spent the same time, on average, on childcare in 2003 as in 1965. The increase in work outside the home was offset by less housework—and less spare time and less sleep.”

So it seems that some women may actually be able to have it all as long as they are willing to sacrifice themselves – and as long as they can get a spot in childcare.

How do you cope with childcare costs and the childcare/ work conundrum? What works best for your family? Nannies, grandparents, day care? How do you juggle it?

 

 

 

My Super Nanny likes to think of itself as Australia’s ‘cupid’ in childcare.

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