Research shows parents want flexible ECEC options, even without taxpayer support

by Freya Lucas

September 12

More than half of Australia’s parents who are currently receiving the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) would be willing to receive less subsidy if it meant they had more flexibility in how it was spent, research from the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) has revealed. 

 

50 per cent of those surveyed in the What Do Parents Want? Australian childcare preferences and attitudes research nominated “informal”, non centre based arrangements for child care as their preference – such as grandparents, friends, or family day care. 

 

Co-author Dr Fiona Mueller said researchers found that parents saw formal child care as “very expensive and generally not very flexible.” 26 per cent of those surveyed disagree with the idea of government subsidies being available for informal care, while 66 per cent said they would prefer this flexibility even if it meant receiving a lower subsidy overall.

 

In terms of the “top three” priorities of parents choosing childcare, 60 per cent of respondents nominated the personal “warmth” of an early childhood setting as their top priority, followed by location (56 per cent) and cost (48 per cent).

 

The qualifications of staff were a low priority for parents, researchers found, with only 9 per cent of respondents nominating qualifications as the most important factor. The calibre of education on offer in a service was also a low priority, with only 34 per cent of parents naming this in their top three. 

 

This finding was significant, Dr Mueller said, because these are the factors which are cited in justifying what she termed “massive increases in cost in the sector in recent years.”

 

The shift from care towards education was impacting on childcare cost and availability, making life harder for working mothers, she added, calling for the focus of early childhood education and care (ECEC) to shift to a “focus on improving mothers’ access to jobs.”

 

“For 88 per cent of working mothers, availability and affordability influenced how much they worked,” Dr Mueller said.

 

“We found that 46 per cent of mothers would work more hours if child care were more affordable. The economic and social impact of this increased workforce participation could be substantial.”

 

To access the findings, or to learn more, please see here

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