It amazes me how people feel that families shouldn’t have children if they can’t afford childcare. Imagine what would happen if every woman in the land today decided that they would rather go on a beach holiday, have weekly Botox and spend their salary on designer shoes instead of having a child? Roll forward 39 or 40 years and you can imagine what the economy would really look like, right?
I was invited to speak on behalf of working families on last night’s BBC Radio Five Live about childcare – should taxpayers pay for it, or should families fork out for it themselves.
To give a little background, its worth noting that UK parents pay much more for childcare than anywhere in Europe. Compared to our neighbours in Europe, it’s as though the government forgets that we also contribute to the economy, and to other services that we may never even use.
Take, for example, our tax goes towards all public services, right? State school for one, but what if your child has gone to a private nursery, private school, private sixth form and then you and them fork out for their tuition fees on top? Loosely speaking, we’re looking at almost 18 years of not using a service you have being paying towards, which benefits other people…
But somehow it seems that whether the government should subsidise childcare more to reduce the 33% of parents’ income that goes towards it, the mere thought of it is greeted with disdain and real bad feeling. “Don’t have children if you can’t afford them!” “Why should we pay for other people’s children?” These are just some of the nonsensical comments that I’ve heard whenever the subject is brought up.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – a group of 32 industrialised nations, the percentage of income that is spent on childcare:
- 33% – UK
- 8% – Germany
- 11% – France
- 19% – US
- 22% – Canada
- 28% – New Zealand
- 29% – Ireland
Childcare typically costs £167/week for full-time nurseries (or about £375/week in London)…a crippling £18,000 per year. It’s little wonder, then that so many mums feel that working defeats the purpose…mums who have been tax payers prior to having their children, I might add!
The government clearly needs to address this issue – and fast! Especially now that mums who are on income support will be taken off once their child reaches five years old. Admittedly, childcare costs go down a bit once children are at school, but unless there is some assisted childcare schemes for all, those self-set targets could prove an impossible feat.
How is it that we working parents pay for everything else – income support for society’s work shy, wars we haven’t signed up for personally, sending aides to countries who provide refuge for the same terrorists who attack our country…and much more. Yet, Child Benefits are about to get cut for many of us working parents, while others can happily tap into it having as many children as fertility will allow and not working, child tax credits have already been cut for many of us…what has society got against children, anyway? When did they stop being a priority?