How to fix the childcare crisis

April 13, 2022: Reason Party is calling for fully publicly funded universal childcare and the phased integration of early childhood education with schools, the first such policy in Australia.

How to fix the childcare crisis

Reason Party is calling for fully publicly funded universal childcare and the phased integration of early childhood education with schools, the first such policy in Australia.

Party Leader Fiona Patten said the position would be taken to the imminent federal election and the November election for the Victorian Parliament, where she has been a member since 2014.

Ms Patten says: "Childcare must be free. The high costs from the current privatised child system are hurting families. When families can access childcare, they earn up to 1.5 times more. That is why Reason is committed to working towards making childcare free for all Australians. Reducing the strain on both parents – specifically, mothers and low income and rural families who are already inside a stretched system.’’

Victorian MP wants Lord's Prayer scrapped | The Transcontinental | Port Augusta, SA

Victorian Senate candidate Yolanda Vega, who has fought for women’s workplace rights as a business group leader and an academic, will champion the policy as an investment in productivity and work.

Ms Vega says: "Inaccessible and unaffordable childcare is creating a potential productivity disaster by restricting millions of women from participating fully in the economy."

Lack of appropriate childcare is one of the greatest barriers to women’s employment. Universal education is one of the pillars of equality of opportunity. Both unlock human potential and ultimately fuel a stronger economy, generating growth in lobs, wages, wealth, and taxes.

A rising chorus of business and social organisation are calling for change in the interests of economic growth and social justice. It is widely accepted that the investment would pay for itself over time, largely by increasing female workforce participation.

This would also help with skills shortages and cost-of-living stresses. The current system is unfair as taxes and childcare fees create a disincentive to work more hours.

The latest official figures show a male participation rate of 70.7 per cent and a female one of 62.4 per cent. Australian women are highly educated, so this gap represents massive lost economic potential for individuals, families, and communities.

"The return on investment should be a good enough reason for this reform because every dollar the government spends is returned in two-fold," Ms Vega says.

The childcare policy dovetails with Reason Party’s advocacy for universal publicly funded pre-school for three-to-four-year-olds.

Fresh research from the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University finds that as many as nine million Australians live in a childcare "desert", where available places outnumber children under five by at least three to one. It also reports a strong correlation between household wealth and childcare availability.

Ms Vega has long advocated for childcare reform. In a 2013 article, when she was executive director of the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI), she said: "The self-employed women of Australia, the single mothers of Australia, the small business owners of Australia, the wage-earning mothers of Australia and the millions of families struggling with the child care system in Australia are waiting for child care to be placed firmly on the election agenda... This lack of effective policy has caused anguish for working mothers. The difficulty of finding and affording quality childcare is a daily juggle for women with children, some of whom find the struggle so difficult it becomes near impossible to participate in the economy."

Today, she says: “Almost 10 years later, despite the many promises from various governments the cost of childcare continues to rise, and accessibility is only for the lucky few. It really is long past time to get this rational, decent change done.’'