New CIS research: Parents prefer more flexible childcare options even if it means less taxpayer support

Fiona Mueller

10 September 2019 | MEDIA RELEASE

Half the parents receiving Australia’s $8 billion annual subsidy for formal childcare would prefer other forms of childcare, according to Centre for Independent Studies research. And 66% would also be okay with receiving less subsidy if they could spend it on more informal childcare.

In What Do Parents Want? Australian childcare preferences and attitudes, research co-author Dr Fiona Mueller found parents saw formal child care as very expensive and generally not very flexible.

“50% of the 521 working mothers surveyed nominated a first preference other than formal childcare, and instead would prefer informal arrangements such as grandparents, friends and family daycare,” Dr Mueller said.

“Only 26% of mothers disagreed with the idea of government subsidies being available for informal care, while 66% would prefer this flexibility even if it meant receiving a lower subsidy overall.”

So what do parents want? Dr Mueller said 60% of mothers nominated personal ‘warmth’ of the childcare as one of their top three priorities in childcare, followed by location (which 56% of mothers had in their top 3) and cost (48%).

“Only 9% said that childcare staff qualifications were the most important factor, and only 32% even had it in their top 3 concerns, while only 34% felt that the educational aspect was among the most important factors.”

“Yet these factors have driven massive increases in cost in the sector in recent years.”

She added that the shift to a focus on early childhood education were impacting on childcare cost and availability, making life harder for working mothers.

“Instead, the system should focus on improving mothers’ access to jobs,” Dr Mueller said.

“For 88% of working mothers, availability and affordability influenced how much they worked,” Dr Mueller said.

“We found that 46% of mothers would work more hours if child care were more affordable. The economic and social impact of this increased workforce participation could be substantial

“The research clearly shows it is crucial for federal and state governments to consider how to offer choice and ensure taxpayer funds are spent effectively.

“A significant number of parents may not feel they are getting value for money through current childcare arrangements.

“Taxpayers will spend $8 billion this year on childcare. It is highly regulated and increasingly expensive – with the cost growing on average by 6.5% each year since 2009.

“Of course we all want the best care for our children — what parent doesn’t? However the current system is clearly not meeting the needs of half the parents.”

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