Affordable ECEC is essential for women in small business, Ombudsman says

Affordable ECEC is essential for women in small business, Ombudsman says

by Freya Lucas

February 22, 2021

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell says universal access to high-quality, affordable early education is an urgent need for women who own and manage their small businesses.

 

Ms Carnell’s comments were made in support of the Thrive By Five campaign, following  the recent National Press Club address by Jay Weatherill and Nicola Forrest.

 

In order to support families, small businesses need access to affordable early childhood education and care (ECEC) options, she continued, noting that with more than a third of Australia’s small businesses being run by women, access to reliable and affordable care is an important aspect of supporting small business.

 

“The latest data from the Productivity Commission shows there was a 21.7 per cent rise in the number of parents and carers in Australia who didn’t work due to childcare costs in 2020, compared with the previous year,” she said.

 

“According to those figures, 90,000 Australian parents stayed out of the workforce last year because the cost of childcare was too high.” 

 

Australia’s childcare costs are the 4th highest in the OECD, taking an average of 27 per cent of household income.

 

For women and families in small businesses, particularly those that are relying on JobKeeper or still in the process of recovering from the COVID-19 crisis, access to ECEC may be impacted by issues of affordability, Ms Carnell said. 

 

“We know the COVID-19 recession had a disproportionate impact on women. With fees remaining too high, mothers – more often than not – need to spend more time at home to look after their children rather than working to grow their business. It’s bad for small business and even worse for the economy,” she added. 

 

“Now is the time for the government to be considering innovative ways to increase participation rates for women to ensure productivity gains and to benefit businesses.

 

In terms of ways in which the Government could make ECEC more affordable, Ms Carnell suggested making ECEC more tax-effective or phasing in an expanded subsidy scheme as recommended by the Grattan Institute, a change estimated to deliver an $11 billion boost to the economy.

 

For more information about the work undertaken by the Ombudsman, please see here

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