childcare costs - the great debate

There's a whole bunch of headlines being generated at the moment (and even more interesting comments) about childcare costs in Australia. The debate is raging on all sides...

  • Childcare costs are rising. One commenter on this news story said their childcare costs had increased from $59/day in 2008 to $89 today. That's a decent hike – a 50% increase in four years!

  • This is partly because childcare centres want (need!) to attract more/better staff. That means they need to offer higher wages. Two of my friends are early childhood educators and their wages are ridiculously low. One is a group leader, and she still earns less per hour than an average waitress. That's not to say that those in the hospitality industry don't work hard for what they earn, but really – shouldn't we pay people who are responsible for the safety and comfort and growth of our children MORE than we pay people who serve us food?

  • Childcare workers are not babysitters. Of all of the issues surrounding day care, this is comment that gets my back up the most. One of my close friends, Monique, is an early childhood educator (Lila is lucky enough to have a spot in her Family Day Care centre) and I'm offended on her behalf. She follows an educational framework and plans each day to include learning and play activities, including painting, crafts and baking – they're even growing their own veggie patch!

  • Some are calling for the Childcare Rebate (or Benefit - I get confused) to be means tested. I understand the reasoning behind this – why should a family earning $200k combined get any $$ back? They can afford it! But, means testing the rebate will be a huge disincentive to mums re-entering the workforce. When Lila started daycare, she was 12 months old, and we were living in Bondi in Sydney. Her daily rate at the centre was $126! For those parents needing full-week care, the cost was around $600/week. After the $7,500 rebate, that means a mum needs to earn around $30k gross simply to break even on childcare costs. After tax, she needs to earn $40k just to have $100 in her pocket each week. Means testing makes these calculations even more woeful.
It's a hugely complex issue and I'm glad I'm not making any of the policy decisions. It'll be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next election...


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