Survey result 2010

2010 Annual Child Care And Workforce Participation Survey: Returning to work less financially viable than last year

Our 5th Annual Child Care and Workforce Participation survey has revealed Australian parents are feeling increasing pressure in terms of affordability of child care and the financial viability of returning to the workforce; are stressed due to the difficulty in finding appropriate care and the lack of support by employers; are confused over child care benefits and disillusioned over the still non-existent statutory paid maternity leave.

We've been amazed by the number of respondents this year. It's obviously a very emotive subject still, particularly with the cost of child care increasing, affordability decreasing and paid maternity leave still on the backburner.

Of the 2,112 parents who responded to the survey, 73% had children in child care at some point during the week - 81% for work reasons and 13% for social interaction with other kids or time out for mum.

A quarter of children are in child care five days a week with 29% in for three days and 26% for two. 51% are in care between 4 and 8 hours per day with 44% in child care for over 8 hours per day.

60% start child care under 12 months, with 7-12 months being the most likely entry time (39%). 21% start between 12 and 18 months and just 12% over 2 years old.

Similar to last year, key child care arrangements are child care centres (76%); family day care (10%), pre-schools (12%) and nannies or au pairs (10%). Grandparents still play a key role in child care with just over 15% of parents using grandparents for child care.

Key findings (with more details and stats below):

  1. Child care search still difficult and frustrating
  2. Cost of child care still on the rise – 12% increase in weekly fees over $300 since 2008
  3. GFC forces parents to make changes
  4. Going back to work less financially viable than last year
  5. Child care rebate still confusing
  6. Parents sceptical about paid maternity leave
  7. Employers still fall short of assisting in return to work
  8. Child care maybe failing our pre-schoolers
  9. Stay at home mums believe they have been unfairly stigmatised
  10. Working mums not feeling the love!
  11. Shortage of out of school hours places
  12. Parents not sharing the load

1. Child care search still difficult and frustrating While 41% found child care within a couple of months, 13% of parents couldn't find child care for 6-12 months and 16.5% took over 12 months to find appropriate care.

While 78% got the care they wanted in the end, 16% did not and 50% said they found the process difficult or extremely difficult and frustrating. Over a third said they could not find enough information to really understand their child care options and 8% were unaware any information existed.

Over two thirds of working mums said the aspect of finding child care was one the hardest things about going back to work.

2. Cost of child care still on the rise – 12% increase in weekly fees over $300 since 2008The cost of child care is still on the rise with over 29% paying over $80 per day per child in child care fees (before any benefits or rebates) compared to 22% last year and 57% paying between $50 and $80 per day. Weekly costs are rising with 32% of parents paying over $300 per week on child care compared to 29% last year – up 12% since 2008.

While 68% of parents think their child care facilities and carers are excellent, 50% would like to see a reduction in cost and 18 % more parent friendly opening hours.

3. GFC forces parents to make changes25% of parents had made changes to their child care arrangements due to the current economic downturn. 10% had reduced the number of days they use child care, 24% have changed child care due to cost.

4. Going back to work less financially viable than last yearAlthough 77% said they had gone back to work due to financial necessity and despite 78% believing child care benefit and the child care rebate make significant impact on child care affordability, 25% said being back at work was not financially viable (compared to 22% last year) and 33% said the financial balancing act was one of the hardest things about returning to work.

With interest rates back on the rise and the cost of living in Australia increasing, this is likely to become more of an issue in the short term future. With that in mind, 91% of parents believe child care should be tax deductible.

5. Child care rebate still confusing A half of working mums are eligible for child care benefit, but 37% are not and 13% have no idea if they are or not so may well be missing out.

Over 35% of parents didn't realise or were unsure that they could potentially register for child care rebate even though they are not eligible for child care benefit and could again be missing out on the 50% rebate.

With child care hard to find and flexibility of employers and child care opening hours still an issue, 80% of parents also think nannies and au pairs should qualify for the same level of child care rebate and child care benefit as any other "formal" child care.

6. Parents sceptical about paid maternity leaveWith statutory paid maternity leave still non-existent in Australia, over 11% of working mums said they took no maternity leave at all, 30% took under six months, 45% took between six months and a year. The need for a statutory scheme is all the more evident with 42% of mums who are back at work receiving no pay for maternity leave; only 9% were fully paid and 49% received part payment.

Unsurprisingly 94% are in favour of paid maternity leave, with 39% thinking that six months should be the duration of paid maternity leave and 34% one year with 35% believing 50% salary should be paid and 36% at 80%. 16% believe 100% salary should be maintained. Over a fifth believes the Government should take sole financial responsibility for paid maternity leave, but the majority (71%) believe Government and employer should share the cost.

35% do not think paid maternity leave will eventuate in Australia in the next five years… (45% believe it will and a 20% don't know).

7. Employers still fall short of assisting in return to workJust over a quarter of employers helped parents return to work after having children, with 70% offering no assistance. Of those who did help returning mums, the majority of assistance was in the form of information (16%), child care search (35%) and flexible hours (72%) or the option for occasional or regular working from home (44.4%). Of the mums who had not returned to work after children, 7% stated lack of employer flexibility and support as the key issue for their remaining at home.

8. Child care maybe failing our pre-schoolers While 68% of parents with children in child care said they rated their children's child care as excellent with great carers and facilities and 30% said it was OK, 20% say their child care offers no structured pre-school program for numeracy or literacy and 23% had no idea if there was a pre-school program or not.

While most child care centres offer the basics, many are also offering additional activities such as dance (40%), music (48%), language lessons (13%), computer skills (19%), library trips (11%) and sports activities (20%), over a fifth offer none of the above and almost a quarter of parents would like their child care service to offer a better range of services and activities.

These figures are really encouraging for the level of service of the child care industry overall. It shows that the vast majority of parents are pretty happy with the level of care their child is receiving. This is also supported with the fact that 78% of parents surveyed think child care workers are undervalued and underpaid.

9. Stay at home mums believe they have been unfairly stigmatised The survey showed that 41% of mums who are currently not working decided they wanted to stay at home with children and while half said they didn't think they had been stigmatised for being a stay at home mum, 29% said they had been stigmatised by other mothers, 25% by friends and family and 14% by ex work colleagues.

10. Working mums not feeling the love! Working mums are certainly not feeling the love when it comes to going back to work!
33% of those who have returned did so for independence, 27% for career progression but the majority for financial necessity.

However 26% feel less valued as an employee than they were before children and 36% believe they have been stigmatised by colleagues or employers for being a working mum. 35% feel negatively judged by other mothers and 23% by friends or family.

Working mums aren't feeling as guilty about going back to work as in previous surveys, however, with only 61% stating this as the key factor compared to over 80% in previous years, but careers have become less of a priority. Just 9% are more focused on their career progression than ever, whereas 58% are less worried about work/career progression than they were before children. Around a third say their attitude towards work has not changed.

11. Shortage of out of school hours places 52% of parents use out of school hours care (OOSH) either occasionally or regularly, with 29% unable to get their kids into after school care from the beginning of term. At the end of term 1, 19% are still waiting for places.

The majority of children in OOSH are at a facility within their school that's independently operated (43%) while 23% are within school and operated by their school. However almost a quarter of children have to go to a nearby location or other school for their after school care.

12. Parents not sharing the loadOrganising time and daily logistics were deemed a negative factor about returning to work for 59% of working mums and previous mini surveys have shown that parents find the child care/school and work juggle very hard to manage, so it was surprising to learn that only 6% of parents surveyed regularly car pool or share pick ups and drop offs with other parents. 11% do so occasionally but 80% never do.

About this survey
There were 2,112 respondents to the 5th 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: