The next time someone says to me “I don’t know how you do it” I am going to give them the honest one word answer.
“How I do it” is to deliver my children each working day to a high quality early learning environment with qualified educators.
Gaining access to quality, affordable childcare is the single biggest barrier for women returning to work in Australia.
With the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Early Learning well under way in Canberra there are misconceptions flying around at present that professional working women will merrily continue to go to work even if child care quality is reduced and it starts to cost them more.
This is just completely wrong and out of touch.
The largest-ever parent survey recently conducted by The Parenthood found 75% of working parents would stop work or reduce their hours significantly if the childcare rebate was cut from its current rate of 50%.
Parents also ranked “quality of the centre and having qualified educators ” as their top priorities when looking for childcare. While of course parents also care deeply about affordability, it is very clear we’re not prepared to leave our children in a centre that is lower quality – even if it’s cheaper.
This is critical right now as the PC has so far recommended lowering the qualification levels for some childcare educators. It is completely wrong to assume parents simply want cheaper childcare and will be satisfied with lower standards.
The Parenthood found 97% of parents rejected the notion they’d choose a cheaper centre because it had lower qualified educators and relaxed ratio standards.
It is very important the PC inquiry take this advice from the parents of Australia on board.
The Inquiry was designed to look at ways to increase the productivity of women in the workforce and improve our childcare system – the recommendations they have made so far in their first report will do the opposite.
Their recommendation to means test the 50% childcare rebate, will leave many families worse off – especially those that earn more than $160,000 a year as a family unit.
While of course we all want to see lower income families receive a higher level of rebate, it is absolutely critical that professional women are not punished by paying more for their childcare.
The idea that professional women will still “go to work anyway” because they are highly qualified and love their jobs is simply wrong. They have told us clearly and repeatedly that they wont.
The childcare rebate is a productivity measure designed to create an incentive for women to return to work. If you cut the incentive then you remove the pull to return to work. The pull to stay with your breastfeeding baby is also pretty damn strong.
Cutting the childcare rebate and reducing the quality of childcare will force an army of professional working women back into the home. Their choice to work will be taken away.
Australia is already below the OECD average for female workforce participation. Cutting the childcare rebate would take us backwards even further.
Every mother and father knows having access to a quality child care system dramatically helps their chances of being able to go to work.
Don’t mess with the childcare system and whittle away its quality. Don’t cut the childcare rebate and punish Australia’s professional working mums and dads.
This week the PC inquiry hands its final childcare report to the Treasurer and Prime Minister. This report has the potential to give the federal government sweeping powers to reform the system and make their recommended cuts.
There is still time for you to help us tell the PC inquiry and the federal government that parents don’t want to see these cuts to quality in our childcare system. Join our “quality not cuts” campaign at The Parenthood and be a part of the parent voice that is fighting to keep a strong child care system in Australia.