Educator Jake is one of the few who can afford to live close to work as housing crisis grows
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Educator Jake is one of the few who can afford to live close to work as housing crisis grows

Educator Jake is one of the few who can afford to live close to work as housing crisis grows

by Freya Lucas

March 21, 2023
A small child plays with a doll house

Early childhood educator Jake Dovgan is a rarity at his long day care service, located in the North Shore of Sydney. He’s one of the few who can afford to live within a somewhat comfortable commuting distance to work. 


Mr Dovgan’s story was recently shared by the Sydney Morning Herald as part of a piece exploring the soaring cost of real estate in Sydney, and the impact this is having on those who live there. 


In order to avoid housing stress, a six-figure salary is now an essential aspect of living comfortably in Sydney, something which is out of the reach of early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals, the paper notes


Living with his parents has allowed Mr Dovgan to remain in the city and use his five years of sector experience and multiple qualifications to enhance the lives of children and their families. Despite his experience and qualifications, he is only earning approximately $46,000 a year – less than half of the six-figure salary needed to get by without housing stress, and definitely not enough to afford the $675 median rent in Waverton, where his family lives. 


Currently, he gives his parents $100 a week for room and board, leaving him with enough funds to participate in social activities and generally “enjoy life”. He commutes 45 minutes from his parent’s home in Waverton to the centre in Lane Cove West, where many of his co-workers travel in from western Sydney or the Central Coast, which are more affordable than suburbs close to the centre. 


At 24 years of age, the desire to start out on his own is present, he told the paper, but if he were to leave home “pretty much my entire pay cheque would go on rent”.


His story was shared as an example which is becoming increasingly common, whereby low paid workers in key sectors such as ECEC, aged care, disability care, hospitality and retail are forced to choose between “crippling” housing costs or extensive commute times. 


Data from Business NSW shows a single tenant needs to earn more than $100,000 in 82 of Sydney’s 209 postcodes to avoid housing stress.


Speaking with The Sydney Morning Herald, United Workers Union early education director Helen Gibbons said staffing shortages in more affluent areas were common, simply because ECEC employees could not afford to live in the areas in which they work. 


“Due to low wages early childhood educators increasingly find themselves priced out of their communities and also forced out of the career altogether,” she said. 


Mr Dovgan’s employer Nicky Upfold said that while her service has 69 licenced places, they are currently limited to 60 due to staffing shortages. 


Despite paying above-award wages she currently has four full-time and two part-time positions vacant across two centres she operates in northern Sydney, and is losing money paying up to 20 hours a week in overtime to staff who are working longer hours. When the additional Child Care Subsidy begins in July, she anticipates the pressure will become more acute. 


To access the original coverage of this story, please see here

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