Calls for free childcare as crèche fees soar
The cost of childcare for parents with children under two has skyrocketed by nearly £3,000 a year in England over the past decade.
According to a new analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), one in three parents (32%) who work with pre-school children spend more than a third of their salary on childcare.
One in seven (15%) said they spent more than half their salary on childcare, according to the TUC poll, published in March 2022.
The TUC analysis also showed that the average full-time childcare bill for a family with a child under two rose by 26% to £14,200 last year, from £11,300 in 2012.
The union body is calling for universal, free childcare for pre-school children.
The UK government spends less than 0.1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on childcare. It is the second lowest investment in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Read more: Women facing a ‘catch 22’ situation as childcare costs soar and maternity benefits drop
The TUC is also calling for better pay and conditions for childcare staff, as well as a new childcare partnership forum.
It comes as the Women’s Budget Group revealed that £28.2billion of economic output is lost each year due to the absence of around 1.7million women from the labor market who lack paid work due to child custody issues.
Over the past 10 years, the East of England has seen the highest increase in childcare costs at 42%, followed by the West Midlands at 38%.
London and the South East were the only two regions in England that had monthly childcare costs of £1,000 or more in 2012. Today every crèche in England charges at least this amount per month on average.
Data also predicts that if this trend continues, parents in central London will face fees of up to £2,000 a month by 2026 and the East of England will see fees of £2,000 by 2027.
Read more: Cost of living crisis: how to reduce childcare costs
“Quality child care should be affordable for all parents. This is how we keep women in work and close the gender pay gap,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.
“But in this cost-of-living emergency, working families are spending more and more of their payroll on childcare costs, while their wages stagnate. This puts enormous pressure on family budgets at the same time as other costs of living skyrocket.
Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss has pledged to follow through on government plans to change staff-to-child ratios for young children.
But the TUC has warned that plans to cut staff ratios will not bring down childcare costs. He said it would hurt quality and could force more workers out of the industry due to unmanageable workloads.
The union body argued that the childcare sector needed urgent investment and that ministers must immediately increase spending to at least the OECD average of 0.7% of GDP.
Read more: Parents who work with preschoolers spend a third of their salary on childcare
Megan Jarvie, Managing Director of Coram Family and Childcare, said, “Childcare is a key part of our nation’s infrastructure. It allows parents to work and contributes to improving the results of young children.
“But the high costs facing families mean it is out of reach for too many families.
“Parents, and mothers in particular, are being deprived of work and children are missing out on this golden opportunity to improve their life chances and reduce the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.”