Aussie families suffering due to sky-high childcare costs, The Parenthood Jessica Rudd CEO calls for reform

Parenting advocates have urged for immediate access to universal childcare and a pay rise to address chronic workforce shortages plaguing childcare centres, warning that Australian families ‘can’t wait any longer’.

Acting CEO of national parenting advocacy group The Parenthood, Jessica Rudd, said statistics showed seven out of 10 parents who have kids in centre-based care find fees a severe burden on their family.

Insufficient pricing control, inadequate transparency, and a dire shortage of centres located in rural and remote areas means parents are being stranded in “childcare deserts”, leaving a disproportionate number of women to stay home to look after their children.

“Kids from Broome to Bendigo are missing out on social, health and educational benefits. Workforce shortages in critical service areas like health and education worsen when parents can’t return to work and towns suffer as a result,” Ms Rudd told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

“Australian women are being priced out of work and promotions at warp speed because they don’t have access to affordable care.”

Australia is currently grappling with a severe workforce crisis in the early childhood education sector. There are more than 20,000 vacancies in childcare centres nationwide.

In October, the country reached the “unfortunate” milestone of hitting 8,000 monthly vacancies, which Ms Rudd said has placed enormous pressure on an already exhausted system.

“When I started doing this job, I was astonished to learn that a Cert III qualified early childhood educator has a take-home pay of $500 less a week than an entry-level bricky labourer,” she said.

“What sort of message do you think that sends to these passionate early learning professionals who turn up for our children day in and day out, who carried this economy through the pandemic because of the essential service that they were providing?” she said.

Last week, the Productivity Commission released a major report urging the federal government to make universal child care accessible.

The report recommended up to 30 hours, or three days a week, of quality early childhood education and care.

It also called to raise the Child Care Subsidy from 90 to 100 per cent for families on incomes up to $80k.

While cheaper childcare was a welcome cost-of-living reform, Ms Rudd pressed that a number of short term measures were urgently needed to relieve families and make sure children don’t miss out on quality care and education.

“That’s probably a 10-year project. As I said, I think there are things that we can do now. We can fix the activity test. We can fix wages so that educators have a wage increase that they can live on,” she said.

“That’s critical if we want to actually get people into the sector or for them to see themselves as having that as a professional career.”

She said the government must “stick to its guns” and urged all parties and crossbenchers to unite behind Labor to support its early childhood care reforms.

“We need to go out onto the streets and probably we need to put our foot down and we need to say, “Enough.” “Enough.”

“We actually need this. And we need it right now.”

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