It took a global pandemic to see women’s work for what it is: economically valuable - women make up nearly 80% of health care and social assistance workers. And the current free childcare that underpins this work will end on 28 June.
Associate Professors Leah Ruppanner and Andrea Carson in The Conversation provide an international comparison of childcare costs, finding Australia rates 17th for education spending on pre-schoolers. Their survey reveals most Australians don’t want the free childcare arrangements to “snap back” to the pre-COVID-19 system that was expensive and inaccessible to many families. The 'free' childcare provided by grandparents that many families relied on is no longer available.
Gratton Institute Economist Daniel Wood, Chair of the Women in Economics Network, proposes an alternative solution: not free but cheaper childcare by raising and simplifying the Child Care Subsidy to reduce the disincentives to work. Their modelling suggests a subsidy of 95% of child-care costs for low-income families, tapering down slowly to zero as family income increases, would cost taxpayers an additional A$5 billion a year, compared with at least $14 billion more for a universal scheme. It would enable many women who want to increase their paid work to do so, support the post-crisis recovery and boost GDP by about $11 billion a year in the medium term through higher workforce participation.