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Deborah Hutton puts childcare affordability on political agenda

Just $160 is left in the average weekly pay packet of Australian working mums after the cost of childcare is taken out, according to the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AWCCI).

Highlighting the steep cost of childcare in Australia, a new media campaign featuring AWCCI ambassador Deborah Hutton is urging our political leaders to address childcare affordability in the lead up to the federal election.

“When the average cost of childcare in Australia is around $560 per child per week, and the average take home pay of a working mum is just over $700 a week, even a child can work out that childcare is simply unaffordable for thousands of Australian families, which is why we’re asking you to go to to send an email to the Government today,” Hutton says in the radio advertisement.

“Let’s get affordable and accessible childcare on the political agenda.”

According to AWCCI CEO Yolanda Vega, this isn’t just an issue for parents, but one for the strength of the Australian economy.

“An efficient, flexible and affordable childcare system can also build a productive, prosperous and stable national economy,” she said, based on research suggesting that if the level of female employment was to match male employment, Australia’s GDP would increase by 11 percent, which is equivalent to $25 billion.

“If Mr Rudd is serious about ‘productivity’ and ‘working together’, he must include women in the equation and therefore address the national childcare crisis.”

Along with the television, online and radio community service announcements, the AWCCI has released an issues paper revealing the challenges and opportunities in creating more affordable childcare options.

According to the paper, Australia’s childcare system is being inundated by demand that is growing 13 times faster than supply. Three-quarters of long day-care centres in Australian capital cities have no vacancies for babies and two-thirds don’t have room for toddlers.

“Parents are having to wait up to three years for appropriate childcare places, forcing women, on the whole, to resign in order to undertake child-caring responsibilities, rely on grandparents or hire expensive, private nannies,” Vega said.

Citing an estimated 3.6 million Australian children under the age of 12 who are in need of childcare, the paper also reveals that demand is projected to climb further as fertility rates rise and net immigration continues to rise.
While Australia ranks first in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for the number of educated women, the paper points out that female employment rates remain low, with OECD figures indicating Australian female participation is at its lowest among women aged between 25 and 44 – the childbearing years.

Recommendations of the issues paper include widening the criteria for childcare accessibility to working parents by restructuring the existing childcare system to include in-home childcare, extending long-day childcare centre hours and including the childcare tax rebate to families who elect to use in-home childcare.

AWCCI has set up a petition to urge leaders to address affordable childcare in the upcoming election. 

mums@work | 10.07.13