Fear that early childhood changes will hold back women’s workforce participation

9 June 2020

Yesterday’s announcement of the end of free childcare, along with a return to the old child care subsidy system and the withdrawal of JobKeeper for childcare services risks an increase in female unemployment and will likely have adverse impacts for women and children.

“It is of great concern that the first sector to have Covid-19 support withdrawn is female dominated with low wages. The changes are likely to adversely affect women, both as workers and parents,” says ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie.

“Our hope was that the Federal Government would craft a transition package that would provide certainty to parents and centres, continuity for children and support the participation of women in the workforce. The transitional package announced by the Government does not meet these tests.”

“The Government’s plan will strongly impact women, whether they are early childhood educators who currently rely on JobKeeper payments or are parents who take the main responsibility for child care. It will impact families at a time when they are still vulnerable to the economic impacts of Covid-19 and it will impact children at risk of losing access to quality early learning.”

“Families are currently facing significant uncertainty. Many have lost employment, and many others have lost hours of shifts. We don’t want to see parents withdrawing their children from early learning during this crisis because they can’t afford it.

“While the activity test will continue to be relaxed, there are strong arguments for it to be lifted for the duration of the economic recovery to broadly support parents in their efforts to return to work and to maintain continuity for children.”

“After this crisis we need to do a number of things differently including:

–      Permanently abolish the activity test for at least 20 hours of ECEC per week; and

–      Restructure the Child Care Subsidy to provide 20 hours of early childhood education and care to all children (from the end of paid parental leave to starting school) with no out of pocket costs to families

“We cannot go backwards. Fixing the early childhood education and care system will be a game changer for workforce participation, and will also deliver real benefits for children and families. It is essential that we don’t miss the opportunity that this health and economic crisis presents to make the system better.”

Media contact:  Australian Council of Social Service, 0419 626 155