What is the future for working mothers facing rising childcare costs?

 

The current childcare environment is barring women from working.

There are many reasons why there are not enough women at boardroom level. Among them is the problem of childcare.

September sees the end of the school holidays where many mothers will return to work, if only for financial reasons. This month also marks the first anniversary of the launch of a government initiative which planned to offer 30 hours more free childcare to working parents.

Apparently, 390,000 families were to benefit from the new scheme and the evaluation at the time showed 8 out of 10 childcare providers were willingand able to double the 15 hours offered.

However, a significant number of councils reported not having enough places for the free 30 hours – with London local authorities being particularly badly affected. Some childcare providers now claim that lack of government funding has been forcing nurseries out of business causingshortages.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) say that England’s childcare costs are now the highest of any advanced country. 50 hours of childcare for one under two year-old in central London now costs between £300 and 350 a week.

Within the traditional family unit, working women have often relied on grandparents and extended family for childcare cover. But with family units changing, and the cost of inner-city housing rising, it’s becoming impossible for many families to live near to work.

The Family and Childcare trust say that the government’s new investments have been undermined by the surge in childcare prices, rising at more than double the rate of inflation. The average price of a full-time nursery place for a two-year-old has risen by over 50% since 2008.

The summer holidays will have proved another huge problem for many. Holiday childcare costs have also increased greatly this year, making the average price tag for six weeks holiday childcare per child an eye-watering £800.00, up to twice the cost of term times.

Britain is failing dismally when it comes to childcare provision. Many other countries have been able to provide affordable and attainable childcare that makes not only a moral and ethical difference, but economic sense by enabling women to go to work.

The summer has seen much activity to encourage gender inclusion in the workplace. The Hampton-Alexander review of the FTSE 250 showed that women are still only making up 25.5% of directors. The Fawcett Society has called on MP’s to drive change on  Gender Pay by making it mandatory for smaller businesses to report on their gender pay gaps.

Their report showed the UK to have one of the highest gender pay gaps in Europe, up to 40% in some sectors.

Only when this issue is properly addressed, will we see more women enabled to come through to senior levels in the world of work, which will improve gender relations as well as the economy.

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