When I was a young working mother over 15 years ago, I had the good fortune of having in-laws who took care of my children. I don’t know how parents do it today. For many parents returning to work after having a child, even a three-day week can end up costing up to $15,000 a year in fees. Little wonder that many mums and dads conclude that it’s better to stay at home rather than return to work for that period.
Even if the finances make sense, there is no guarantee of securing a place. It’s more of a ‘take what you can get’ approach. Sadly, this is unlikely to change anytime soon, in just three years the number of children accessing subsidised childcare will jump by 300,000 taking us up to a cool 2 million.
The effect of the childcare crisis is simple: parents who want or need to work cannot. This causes significant stress in the home, logistical nightmares with drop-offs and pick-ups, and an estimated loss of 5.5 billion each year in national productivity.
Much like the housing affordability issue, the childcare crisis demands collaboration across sectors and a whopping dose of creativity. This is the only way we can solve wicked problems.
The Turnbull Government’s changes will go some way to making childcare more affordable for lower income families, and longer-term reforms by State and Commonwealth governments must boost the number of centres and qualified practitioners and increase the budget allocated to early childhood development.
However, the government cannot do it all. We need social enterprise, community and the private sector thinking creatively about how we can provide immediate relief. The educator Steven Anderson said “Alone we are smart.Together we are brilliant.”
The Sharing Economy unlocks the value of unused or under-utilised assets. By thinking laterally and pooling our resources we can tackle the issue head on. We are seeing the emergence of apps that connect parents to babysitters and community childcare options. My own business, The Room Xchange, connects households with guests who are willing to provide up to 14 hours of help each week, in Xchange for food and accommodation. This is a low cost and easy way for parents to access in-house support.
When it comes to tackling the childcare crisis our country is facing, we need open and creative minds – let the ideas flow! Collectively, we have every skill set imaginable. With technology as a true enabler, we can design, trial and scale up local grassroots solutions to make a national difference.
If the childcare crisis is a challenge for you, click here to find out how you can get the in-home support you need.
By Ludwina Dautovic
Founder and CEO, The Room Xchange
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