Survey result 2009


Just over a thousand* Australian parents considering child care or with children currently in child care took part in the fourth annual® Child Care and Workforce Participation Survey this month.

Founder of®, Roxanne Elliott, thinks this year's survey has been the most interesting yet: 'Key findings showed that while child care fees are on the increase, affordability is also slightly higher, due to the increase in child care tax rebate (the legislation for which people still find very confusing) and while employers are slowly getting more in tune with helping women back to work, the majority still offer no assistance whatsoever.

'The survey also revealed that financial pressures on families and lack of a paid maternity leave scheme means mothers often go back to work with very little or no time off with their new babies', she said.

The® survey is becoming an annual benchmark for the state of the nation's child care system and the view of the parents whose children are in it. It polls parents on all aspects of child care and returning to work: from their opinions on child care policies and paid maternity leave; difficulty in finding child care; its cost and affordability; parents' knowledge of child care benefit; motivations for returning to work; workplace attitudes and support from employers.

Key Findings (with more detail and stats below):

  1. Children starting early with full days and weeks in child care
  2. More children than ever before in child care centres and pre-schools
  3. Child care is still hard to find
  4. Gold star for child care centres in quality of care - but cost and operating times still a big issue
  5. Child care falling short in children's pre-school education and parents need to take more interest
  6. Women are returning to work sooner due to lack of paid maternity leave, financial pressure and lack of employer support
  7. The cost of child care is still on the increase but affordability is too
  8. Ignorance and confusion over child care benefit and child care tax rebate is still a big issue

1. Children Starting Early With Full Days And Weeks In Child CareLikely due to employers' lack of support for mums and the return to work being a financial necessity for most women (see results below), over a quarter of children in care are there full time, five days a week, followed by 28 per cent for three days and 24 per cent for two days. Forty-five per cent of children are there for over eight hours per day, while 39 per cent are in care for between seven and eight hours per day.

60 per cent of children started in child care under the age of one year old (21 per cent under six months) with only 10 per cent starting over two years.

2. More Children Than Ever Before In Child Care Centres And Pre-SchoolsParents are mixing up child care with many using several types of care, but the vast majority, 87 per cent of children, attend a pre-school or child care centre (12 per cent higher than last year); 11 per cent have children in family day care; just under 10 per cent use a nanny or au pair (up from last year – 8 per cent) and 15 per cent rely on a grandparent (same as last year).

3. Child Care Is Still Hard To FindAlthough 38 per cent said they found care within 2 months, 17 per cent said it took them over a year to find appropriate child care. 80 per cent were able to find the child care they wanted, though 15 per cent were not. The positive and negative experiences were split down the middle with 50 per cent said the search for child care was either difficult or extremely difficult and frustrating and 50 saying their experience was a positive one.

Fortunately only five per cent of parents surveyed were actually affected by centre closures although 65 per cent of those affected were not able to find a suitable alternative at short notice (within a month) and were affected in terms of their employment.

4. Gold Star For Child Care Centres In Quality Of Care - But Cost And Operating Times Still A Big IssueDespite the long hours and starting young, the majority of parents are very sure their children are happy and thriving in child care; with 70 per cent saying their children eat, sleep and play really well in care, as well as talking about the teachers all the time, being generally happy to go every morning and having lots to smiles every day.

  1. 72 per cent of respondents said they thought their child care provider gave them excellent quality of facilities and services, while 25 per cent said they were average.
  2. Although 21 per cent of parents were happy with their child care just as it is, almost half would prefer cost to be reduced, a fifth would like better services and a fifth would like more convenient hours of operation.

5. Child Care Falling Short In Children's Pre-School Education And Parents Need To Take More Interest'Further to our article last month on pre-school education, says Elliott, it seems the plans by the labour government to introduce a set pre-school curriculum and guaranteed pre-school places by 2113 are eagerly anticipated with almost a fifth of pre-school child care providers offering no structured programs in literacy and numeracy'.

  1. 58 per cent said their child care / pre school had a structured preschool program (numeracy and literacy based); 19 per cent offered no programs at all and 23 per cent of parents had no idea if they did or didn't…
  2. 22 per cent of child care providers offered no educational activities such as library trips, music, dance or language lessons.

6. Women Returning To Work Early Due To Lack Of Paid Maternity Leave, Financial Pressure And Lack Of Employer Support

Australian Parents Are Massively In Favour Of Paid Maternity Leave - With Many Women Taking No Leave At AllAs we await the government's decision on paid maternity leave for the next budget, the nation is definitely in favour of not becoming one of the very few developed nations that has no statutory paid maternity scheme.

  1. Australian parents are massively in favour of paid maternity leave 90 per cent
  2. Majority think six months paid maternity leave is fair (39 per cent)
  3. 70 per cent think jointly funded by employers and government
  4. Most think that maternity leave should be 50 per cent of salary for at least 6 months
  5. 11 per cent of mums took no maternity leave at all; 29 per cent took under 6 months; 43 per cent took between 6 months and a year and 16 per cent took over a year.

'One thing that stood out for me on Maternity Leave, said Elliott, was that 11 per cent of respondents did not take Maternity Leave at all and 40 per cent took less than 6 months due to economic situation and career inflexibility. It also highlights the main motivator to return to work was once again financial necessity (75%)'.

Financial Necessity and Employer Lack of SupportFinancial necessity was again the main motivator to return to work (75 per cent) with independence and career progression in second and third place (32 and 28 per cent respectively).

Mother guilt is still the hardest factor of returning to work, though getting less so ( 59 versus 63 per cent in 2008) followed by finding child care (35 per cent) and organising time and daily logistics (55 per cent).

83 per cent of mums surveyed were working – full time or part time. Of those who weren't working or studying, 25 per cent were still on maternity leave and 33 per cent decided to stay at home, but 10 per cent had not returned to work due to Inflexible hours and an unsupportive employer; eight per cent because it wasn't financially viable; six per cent because they couldn't find suitable child care and over 16 per cent because they couldn't find a job.

While 11 per cent of women said they're more focused on work and career progression than before children, 58 per cent of mothers are less so than before babies. 55 per cent said their sense of value at work hasn't really changed at all; whereas 23 said they felt less valued and 22 per cent more valued.

The majority (68 per cent) of those surveyed said their employers offered no help or support in the return to work process (about the same as last year). However more employers are offering support compared to last year (27 per cent vs 12 per cent in 2008). This support included information 12 per cent; Child care search (34per cent); Flexible hours (68 per cent) and occasional or regular option to work from home (43 per cent).

7. The Cost Of Child Care Is Still On The Increase But Affordability Is TooJust under 20 per cent said their child care arrangements had been affected by the current economic climate: 46 per cent of those had changed the number of days they used child care, 22 per cent had changed child care provider due to cost of care, which is on the increase despite the economic downturn and need to support working families.

  1. 22 per cent of parents are paying over $80 per day (before benefits and rebate) compared to 15 per cent last year
  2. 73 per cent are paying $40-80 per day (increase on last year's 66 per cent)
  3. 29 per cent are paying between $200 and $300 per week (increase on last year's 22per cent) and 29 per cent paying over $300 (increase on last year – 20per cent).

However the changes to tax rebate and child care benefit may be making an impact with 22 per cent of working mums said that being back at work was not financially viable in terms of income versus child care costs (down from last year's 30 per cent) with 78 per cent of those polled believing that the Child Care Tax Rebate would or does make a significant impact on the affordability of child care.

8. Ignorance And Confusion Over Child Care CCB/CCTR Still An Issue'It's been interesting to see the change from last year's findings regarding understanding of CCB/CCTR, says Elliott. A whopping 77 per cent say that the CCB/Tax Rebate (now at 50 per cent) has made an impact, which is very interesting, although there is still a lot of ignorance and confusion over child care benefit and child care tax rebate'.

  1. 39 per cent of parents were unaware or unsure they could claim rebate even if they weren't eligible for child care benefit.
  2. 13 per cent still have no idea if they're eligible for child care benefit or not.
  3. 38 per cent of parents are currently not eligible for benefit; of those, 43 were eligible before the latest changes.

91per cent think all child care should be tax deductible and 80 per cent think registered nannies and au pairs should command the same CCB/rebates as other approved child care.

About this survey
There were 1,006 respondents to the 4th Annual Child Care & Workforce Participation Survey examining the health of Australia's child care system. The survey is held in the first quarter of every year, the survey encourages parents to provide insight into their specific child care arrangements and have their say about our child care system and whether it is working for them.

View results from other years: