April 19, 2024

Childcare Costs Are Soaring As The Government Encourages Us To Have More Children

Just before Halloween this year, 15,000 mums and families marched the streets of London, Cardiff, Belfast, Glasgow and seven other UK cities, protesting the prohibitive cost of childcare. A few weeks earlier, an anonymous Tory politician told The Sun newspaper “we need to have more children,” citing labor shortages and suggesting tax cuts for those who do.

That’s right; while parents are screaming and shouting that they can’t afford childcare for the children they do have, government officials are responding that it’s our responsibility to have more children for the good of society.

We now know there is a drop in our population on our horizon, with the United Nations predicting it coming in the 2080s. Given the litany of environmental issues we’re currently facing, you’d be forgiven for feeling like this could be just what we need. Less cars on the road, less food wastage, less of all the things that are damaging our world and our ways of life.

But with others arguing that our current societal and economic model of living hinges on balance, and a need for working young people to support retired older people, this is clearly not a problem with an easy fix.

But what about those in the middle; parents and families, those at these marches and those cheering them on from home? In a large study conducted earlier this year by Pregnant Then Screwed, the charity behind the marches, 84% of respondents admitted that childcare costs create financial anxiety in the home.

The same study found that 76% of women who do not have children say that childcare costs are either a factor in why they don’t have children or it is the main reason they don’t have children. A September study from the charity showed that 31% of new parents said that the cost of childcare has stopped them from having any more children.

My husband and I had our first child late last summer, and we can’t afford to put her in nursery; our local one costs £58 a day, or £1,100 a month. It doesn’t make sense for one of us to work and then direct all of our earnings to someone else taking care of her, so instead, we each work three days a week and look after her three days a week (on Sundays we have a much-loved day all together).

But those nursery fees are on the lower end of the spectrum, thanks in part to the fact that we live in the north. One friend who lives down south pays a day rate a few pence shy of £80. Bearing in mind that the National Minimum Wage doesn’t rise again until the end of April, and currently stands at £9. 50 for those 23 and over, a parent on minimum wage at her nursery’s first 8 hours and 40 minutes at work that day are gone on childcare fees.

If they work the average eight hour shift, not only have they not made a profit, they’re in debt…. and that’s without deducting tax, pension, national insurance and travel costs. And that’s just for one child. God forbid the parent is 20 or under; then they can be legally paid just £6. 38 an hour, or £4. 81 if they’re under 18. The inaffordability is clear to see.

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