Ultimate magazine theme for WordPress.

For the sake of the economy, childcare must be better rebuilt

It is time to accept that the American childcare market is fundamentally broken. Given the costs that families can comfortably bear, the quality often poor, and a system that is balanced on the back of an abysmally paid female workforce, our childcare system calls for a non-partisan public policy solution.

The Build Back Better Act that Congress is working on is the opportunity and solution we need for our system.

In the United States, over 15 million children under the age of six are in need of weekly childcare because of their parents’ work. But finding this care affordable is a nationwide challenge. This lack of accessible and affordable care negatively impacts the professional careers of many families, affecting parents’ earnings and advancement potential, working hours and even the educational opportunities that they can pursue.

Mothers often bear the brunt of parental care. This makes access to childcare a particular barrier to the retention and advancement of women in the workplace. This could explain why the participation rate for mothers with school-age children (ages six to 17) peaks at just 76 percent and for mothers with young children falls to less than 60 percent.

According to the University of Oregon R -ID-EC survey, more than one in three female caregivers have been forced to leave staff or reduce their hours after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the labor force participation of women fell to 57 percent – the lowest level since 1988. In early 2021, the total number of women who have left working life since the beginning of the pandemic reached over 2.3 million. McKinsey and Oxford Economics estimate that it will take women 18 months longer than men to return to pre-pandemic employment levels.

And the burdens of childcare extend beyond the family budget and into the economy. It is estimated that inadequate childcare costs working parents $ 37 billion annually in lost income, while businesses lose more than $ 13 billion in lost productivity due to lower performance, hiring costs, and work stoppages. When childcare and schools closed during the pandemic, the estimated cost to the economy was $ 700 billion in lost revenue and productivity – equivalent to 3.5 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP).

The pandemic has shed new light on the intertwining of childcare and economic stability. To counteract the loss of economic productivity and rebuild our current workforce, policymakers must first consider how childcare can be made more affordable for working families. In a survey by the Center for American Progress, 68 percent of respondents agreed that public policies should be designed so that families can better pay for care bills.

With this growing awareness, the Build Back Better Act offers a unique opportunity to rethink the American childcare and education system. The bill provides for a historic $ 400 billion investment in early childhood that would fund universal pre-kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds as well as improve affordability, quality, and pay in the childcare industry. Should the proposal go into effect, childcare payments would be c -ped at no more than 7 percent of families’ annual income (up to 250 percent of the median state income), dramatically reducing childcare costs for the majority of Americans. With a sliding scale of fees that would save most American families hundreds of dollars a month, co-payments would be based on family income and cover all eligible children in the household.

An investment of this magnitude has the potential to fundamentally change the way families and employers operate childcare and education systems. As we establish a new normal, Build Back Better has the potential to create not only a stronger early childhood system, but a stronger economy as well. These are goals that we can all support.

Dr. Javaid Siddiqi is President and CEO of the Hunt Institute.

Comments are closed.