CAMPAIGNERS have warned “uniquely high” childcare costs are holding back not just the City’s diversity drive but economic growth.
A new study by union the TUC suggests the average nursery bill for a family with a toddler was just shy of £5,000 in 2010 but has grown to more than £7,000 just a dozen years later. Anecdotal evidence suggests those figures can reach significantly higher in London and the south east.
And last night wonks at the Centre for Policy Studies warned that “parents are leaving the workforce instead of stumping up for extortionate fees, taking their skills and productivity with them — and it’s our growth rates that suffer.”
Elizabeth Dunkley, a researcher at the CPS, also said the government should pursue supply side reforms to fix the problem, including bringing childcare ratios into line with European norms.
And Ann Cairns, the global chair of the 30 per cent club and executive vice chair of Mastercard, said:
“Affordable, accessible and convenient childcare is what working parents need to ensure their careers work for their families and their employers.
The cost of childcare is significant for all families and burdensome to many.
We often hear from parents working four or five days a week with more than one pre-school child in childcare that they’re facing monthly bills bigger than their mortgages.
“The pandemic greatly impacted working women who faced the double whammy of greater job insecurity and increased domestic load than men and as a result more women than men have dropped out of the workforce,” she continued.
“Getting childcare right should be an urgent priority for employers and the government to boost the workforce, productivity and growth. It’s also vital for delivering gender equality.”
The increase in childcare costs has in some cases left families wondering whether it is worth going back to work, with women often more than men choosing to stay at home.
“New mums are caught in a Catch 22. The UK’s miserly rate of statutory maternity pay means many are under financial pressure to return to work early and are then at the mercy of sky-high childcare fees,” said the TUC’s boss Frances O’Grady.
The UK has the third highest childcare costs in the developed world, according to the OECD.