THERE would be plenty of grandparents out there with years of child-minding experience who would object to a plan to make them attend TAFE to qualify to mind children but in many other respects the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on childcare reform will be applauded.
The commission’s brief was to find a way to make childcare more affordable for parents and increase the number of places available without blowing the government’s budget.
The productivity connection is all about increasing female participation in the workforce. Getting more women back to work after they have had children is one of the most important ways of improving productivity in the Australian economy.
For tens of thousands of Australian mothers with employable skills and years of experience the cost of childcare has been the major barrier to going back to work.
For families with average incomes and two or more children needing childcare, weekly costs can literally consume four out of five days’ wages.
Faced with the choice of working for almost no take-home pay and missing out on those pre-school years of child rearing many women have made the choice to put off their return to work.
The result has been single-income families struggling to balance the household budget and a large number of women watching their skills and experience fall behind industry expectations.
Aside from proposing TAFE training for grandparents, the commission’s key recommendations include a rigorous means testing of incomes and generous rebates that will make childcare much more affordable for low to middle-income earners.
Along with training pops and grandmas the commission has also flagged rebates for trained nannies and a simplified childcare rebate scheme as a way to create more places at a price the federal government can afford.
The commission’s recommendations will trigger debate and no doubt objections from higher-income households that would see their rebates reduced but the current system is far too expensive and complicated for most people and desperately needs fixing. This is a good start.