"Because of the cost of childcare, working felt like an expensive hobby," is the way Adelaide-based mum of two Dinah Thomasset described returning to work after having children, when speaking to the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, in Sydney last week.
You would laugh if the statement didn't ring true to thousands of parents, especially mums, across Australia. Mums and families who, because of the exorbitant out-of-pocket cost of early learning and care, have to make a "choice" about whether they should return to the workforce or wait until their child is school age.
On Sunday the OECD released new data that confirms Australia is second to only Switzerland when it comes to the cost of early childhood education and care.
A couple with two children in full-time care in Australia will spend 60 per cent of average earnings in gross childcare fees. In net fees, Australia has jumped to seventh in the world, with families spending 26 per cent of average earnings or 20 per cent of net family income on early learning. This compares to the OECD average of 14 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
Out-of-pocket costs for childcare are up 14.7 per cent since the May 2019 election.
Regardless of your location or social circle, if you're a working parent or know one, there is a story about the cost or availability of childcare in Australia. Our mission at The Parenthood is to shift these conversations.
Every child under five in Australia should have access to quality early education, regardless of their postcode or household income or employment status. Early education is arguably more important than primary and secondary school, on account of the brain development that occurs between ages zero and five. For too long this area of public policy has been ignored or dismissed as welfare rather than education and critical infrastructure for families, the outcome being that many Australian women have no choice but to stay at home and put their careers - and financial security - on hold.
That Australia holds the top global rank for educating women while coming in 70th for female workforce participation reflects this.
The Parenthood is advocating for a system which delivers all Australian families choice and opportunity. That means fixing our broken system and improving access to affordable, quality early childhood education and care for all.
Currently, sending a child to daycare even a few days a week in a capital city is akin to paying a second mortgage or private school fees. But, unlike when children reach school age, there is no "choice" for parents to make about public or private education.
This was the experience for Dinah Thomasset, who when living in Sydney had no choice. "I was stuck ... I had to accept a situation that was so unfair to all mothers, not just me," she said.
Throughout this election campaign, The Parenthood has been running online forums and engaging with the major parties to influence the policy outcomes that will directly impact parents.
We believe ensuring every child in Australia has access to quality early childhood education is a bipartisan issue on the basis of the significant educational, social and economic benefits it delivers.
To date, of the major parties only has Labor accepted our offer of an in-person parents forum. Nine members of The Parenthood sat with the Opposition Leader and shadow early childhood minister Amanda Rishworth last week to share their personal experiences with Australia's broken early learning and care.
Despite the widely held belief that there isn't much difference between the major parties, there is a chasm in the policies that the Coalition and the ALP are offering families.
Annually, the Coalition has pledged $566 million in additional relief each year, compared to $5.4 billion under Labor. If the cost of care influences your vote, here are the details:
On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison mentioned the cost of childcare for the first time in the campaign on his own social media. He wrote that a family of four with two kids in daycare, with both parents working full-time and earning $90,000 each a year, would save almost $200 a week under the Coalition's new childcare subsidy and tax relief.
Using that scenario, under the Coalition's policy, and using an average cost of $131 a day, that family would pay $499.85 a week for care, while under Labor's proposed policy the family would pay $284.43 a week. Annually, Labor's policy would save that family $11,202 more than the Coalition's.
We are not a partisan organisation, and strongly believe that there should be no difference in the major parties' policies when it comes to the early years. With three days to go in this campaign, we are calling for the Coalition to match the ALP's commitment on early childhood education and care.
By taking the politics out of early childhood education and care, we can create genuine choice for Australian working parents, improve opportunities for all children and give women a decent shot at developing financial security.
KindiCare, an independent comparison website, has created a federal election calculator for families. Click here to see how the parties measure up.
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