Rules push up childcare costs: report
Billions of dollars in taxpayerfunded subsidies are failing to ease pressure on working families, according to a report claiming childcare is less affordable than ever.
The Centre for Independent Studies, a conservative think tank, says in a report set to be released last week, childcare fees are increasing “well above” inflation and parents’ out-of-pocket costs have risen almost 50 per cent in six years.
Despite the Federal Government’s new Child Care Subsidy promising to save a typical WA family $1089 a year per child in care, the report argues childcare fees are being increased by centres as they scramble to meet rising costs.
According to estimates by report author Eugenie Joseph, fees for long day care — the type most commonly used by Australian families — were 11 per cent higher last year because of rules around staff ratios and qualifications.
“The staff-to-child ratios and qualification rules are driving up the operating costs of childcare services, even though increasing the cost of child care is inconsistent with the aim of encouraging women’s participation in the workforce,” Ms Joseph said.
“By driving up the cost of child care, quality regulations undermine the effectiveness of the Child Care Subsidy.”
The report criticises the “uneven and fragmented” supply of childcare services nationally, with oversupply in some areas but shortages elsewhere mean long waiting lists.
While many parents have pushed for quality early learning, the report warns that the Federal Government faces an “inevitable” trade-off between regulated quality and affordability as it moves to increase female workforce participation.
It calls for Federal and State governments to examine whether staffing and qualification requirements could be cut to make childcare more affordable.
“Realistically, parents cannot afford to pay more,” Ms Joseph said.
“If Australians truly want affordable childcare, a more flexible approach to regulation is needed.”