Childcare might be letting you work but in reality, it may not really be worth it.

Would you work for $6 an hour? If you’re a working mum with small children, you probably already are.

Anyone with a kid in childcare gets anxious at this time of year. It’s the dreaded “end of cap forced to pay full fees for childcare” – time of year. The time when many of us have reached our $7,500 subsidy cap so we’re left to pay the full fees of childcare until the new financial year.

It’s this time of year when the cost of childcare and therefore the real cost of going back to work slaps you in the face and many of us are left wondering… what is the point of working – should I just stay home? Well, Australian National University researchers have crunched the numbers – and on a pure dollars basis, we probably should!

Watch Madeleine West on her best tools for working mums. (Post continues after video.)

Research released today revealed what women with young kids already know – we’re working for practically nothing. For many of us, once we hit that fourth or fifth day of the working week, the financial rewards just dry up. Some women are even paying for the privilege of going to work.

ANU researchers have found that a combination of the marginal tax rate, the cost of childcare and the childcare rebate cap, means middle to high income mums are working for between $5 and $8 an hour while low income mums are actually losing money on that fourth and fifth day of the working week.

I don’t know know about you, but my mums group loves to talk – we talk about our kids, we talk about work, life (and yes, sometimes our partners…) and we talk about politics. Which is why I’m so surprised none of our leaders are talking about childcare costs in this federal election.


Jo Briskey (left). 

A week ago John Black, a former Queensland Labor Senator turned columnist for the Australian Newspaper wrote a piece detailing the demographic analysis of past elections. He noted that:

“The most responsive voters per election dollar spent are young couples with a preschool child, with the mother moving back into the workforce and trying to secure a second job to top up the mortgage...Politicians ignore them at their peril.”

Black then went on to say that:

“The most common grievance for them is the high cost of heavily regulated childcare and Morrison’s budget has removed the plan to lift federal childcare subsidies…..This will hurt volatile Liberal voters in marginal seats who swung strongly against Labor in 2013 and it will not end well for the government…”

So where are Turnbull and Shorten? We hear so much from both of them about ‘jobs and growth’ - yet nothing on the fact it costs so much more for mums with young kids to get into the workforce and work more.

"We hear so much from bother of them about 'jobs and growths'..." But, what about childcare? Images via Getty.

It’s almost like the working mum vote has been forgotten. So far - as a fight between two blokes (with Di Natale thrown in for good measure), we’ve seen a lot of job talk involving hard hats, construction sites and tradies. But what any good economist will tell you is that it’s women - and their ability to return to work - who offer our country the greatest chance for ‘jobs and growth’.

It’s like we’re stuck in an election campaign from the 1950s. Women are still trying to show their value while the men talk amongst themselves.

Despite the fact that every year under the Abbott/Turnbull government we have been promised they’d fix the cost of childcare, we found out in this year’s budget they don’t plan to do anything until 2018.

This means kids born the same year the Abbott/Turnbull Government were elected will be in school by the time Mr. Turnbull actually gets around to making childcare more affordable and accessible.

cost of childcare for working mothers

Any changes to childcare now won't cause an impact until the kids are in school. Image via iStock.

Although Mr Shorten to his credit, has spent almost every day of the first week of the campaign talking up Labor’s commitment to education and the Gonski funding reforms, he has had little to say on early learning and Labor’s plans to make childcare more affordable and accessible for working mums.

Meanwhile people like my friend Amanda are paying the price. She works full time. She’s hit the cap. She’s now paying to work. Paying. To go to work. She knows that her son is benefitting from excellent early childhood education, and she loves her job, but her family finances are under pressure and she wonders why she’s bothering. I wonder that too.

I was on $6 an hour as a 17-year-old in my first after-school job. Six dollars an hour is exciting in your teens - it’s mortifying in your 30s and 40s. Yet that’s exactly what we’re expecting mums to accept.

It’s my hope that this election Aussie mums will stand up and say we won’t accept a rubbish deal for another year - and if you want our votes you’re going to have to work hard for them.

To join The Parenthood’s campaign for more affordable and accessible childcare and help make the politicians take note this election go to

Jo Briskey is the Executive Director of The Parenthood, Australia’s leading parent campaigning and advocacy organisation.

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