Small enterprise ombudsman Kate Carnell backs requires inexpensive childcare
A disproportionate number of women small business owners find that affordable access to childcare in Australia is a barrier to starting and growing their business.
The latest data from the Productivity Commission shows that the number of parents in Australia who did not work due to childcare costs in 2020 rose 22% year over year.
Based on these numbers, 90,000 Australian parents remained unemployed last year because childcare costs were too high.
Australian Small Business and Family Business Ombudsman Kate Carnell has advocated reform of the childcare system, saying that access to high quality, affordable early childhood education would be “essential support for women in small businesses”.
“Women make up over a third of Australian small business owners – 38%,” Carnell said in a statement Wednesday.
“We know the COVID recession has had a disproportionate impact on women. With childcare fees remaining too high, mothers – mostly – have to spend more time at home looking after their children rather than working on growing their businesses, “she said.
Carnell urges the government to explore innovative ways to increase the female participation rate in the workforce to ensure productivity gains and help businesses.
Carnell said there are a number of ways for the government to do this, including improving the tax effectiveness of childcare or phasing in an expanded subsidy system that is estimated to boost the economy by $ 11 billion.
Angela Henderson, who owns a business consultancy and is the mother of two, says unaffordable childcare is the biggest barrier women face when it comes to business growth.
“If women had better access to daycare, we would make Australia a richer country too,” she says.
Ultimately, according to Henderson, the problem boils down to choice, as the cost of childcare reduces opportunities for women to make decisions about their business.
Henderson sees that her own customers are constantly faced with difficult decisions about whether to spend more time on their business or family, and in some cases even to start a business.
“We no longer have a choice. Women have to choose between this or that based on their circumstances, ”she says.
“If women had access to universal childcare, they could send their children to childcare for three days knowing they could focus on their business.”
When her business was a sideline in 2010, Henderson said she delayed investing more time in growing the business because she couldn’t afford to work less in her full-time position.
“It was a catch 22. I still had to keep working even though I knew my business could have grown and grown a lot faster, but I had to keep working and pay for daycare,” she says.
Efforts to access universal childcare are gaining momentum. With a new campaign from Thrive by Five, the federal and state governments are called upon to make childcare universal and tax-financed.
Speaking to the National Press Club, former South Australian Prime Minister Jay Weatherill and Nicola Forrest, co-founder of the Minderoo Foundation, urged governments and the general public to be willing to make childcare affordable for parents.
“There is no doubt that the current system really does punish women,” Weatherill said on Wednesday.
“We have all of these well-educated and talented women who are near the peak of their productivity. We don’t really use their services and we need them. “
This article was first published by SmartCompany.