The primary aim of childcare is the welfare of children themselves, but it has long been recognised to make a considerable impact on the economy overall, boosting productivity through expanding the labour force. Not only that, but it affords the opportunity for parents, especially women to pursue the careers they want. This benefit has been recognised by policy makers as they have expanded free childcare entitlements over recent years, but if campaigners are correct, politicians may need to double-down on this commitment if these benefits are going to be realised in the future.
A coalition of groups, including the Fawcett Society, the Trades Union Congress and British Chambers of Commerce, have called upon the government to do more to ensure that the childcare sector benefits from the upcoming Comprehensive Autumn Spending review. They argue that emergency measures to protect employment will be severely undermined if working parents are unable to access childcare when they need it. Women, they point out, will be particularly impacted by this, possibly reversing years of gains in female employment.
According to the TUC 41% of working mothers are unable or unsure they can get sufficient childcare to cover their working hours, this was according to the results of a survey carried out between 6th and 19th August this year. Reporting on the coalition’s joint statement, the Financial Times underscored the likely impact that uncertain access to childcare can have, citing figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that parents were particularly vulnerable during the lockdown, finding themselves twice as likely to be furloughed as those without children.
In response the government has pointed to the financial support that the childcare sector has already received through the furloughing scheme and maintaining the funding available to local authorities.
The joint statement on the childcare sector can be found here:
The results of the TUC’s survey can be found here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/2-5-working-mums-face-childcare-crisis-when-new-term-starts-tuc-poll
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