“Good access to affordable childcare is a vital cog in our economy and one of the most important factors in allowing women to achieve economically.”
The UK currently has the 7th most expensive childcare in the world, with families spending an average 36% of income on childcare. In comparison, for many of our European neighbours the proportion is much lower with Sweden, Greece, Iceland and Austria all averaging less than 10% (OECD 2018). We simply don’t stack up and this barrier to entry to the workplace is holding women back economically, and Covid along with the pressures brought by this government are making it worse.
Whilst there are government schemes currently available, they are incredibly restrictive and hard to access with only 40% of 2yo children eligible. It is hard to argue with any conviction that it does more than pay lip service to the real problems and issues of working families.
In order to see how these issues were affecting women across the Tees Valley, we ran a survey asking families their thoughts on childcare and how it was affecting their access to the workplace. The results of that showed that 80% of respondents considered childcare to be expensive and how difficult it was to get access to the government schemes leading women to have to persevere with expensive alternatives. This fits in with the results of a nationwide survey by Pregnantthenscrewed.com which showed that 51% of women said that they did not have sufficient childcare to enable them to work at all, whilst a staggering 74% said that it had adversely affected their earning ability.
Of course all of the issues have been made significantly worse by the current Covid crisis with 65% of mothers that were furloughed saying that lack of childcare was the reason whilst 44% of self employed mothers said the crisis had cost them childcare places vital to the running of their businesses.
We must do better. Good access to affordable childcare is a vital cog in our economy and one of the most important factors in allowing women to achieve economically. Let’s explore ways in which local companies can allow more flexible working to help with families’ childcare needs and solutions to help families with school age children to cope with pre and after school provision.
If we are to grow the economy in the Tees Valley, women are going to be a vital part of that growth and we must empower them to be able to fulfil their fullest economic potential.