Modern Australian

Single parents are getting priced out of daycare, triggering a vicious cycle of entrenched poverty

  • Written by Barbara Broadway, Senior Research Fellow, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne

Female workforce participation has risen for the past two decades in Australia, and in turn, more young kids have been attending formal childcare.

So it’s very surprising the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey shows a steep fall in the use of formal childcare among single-parent households, which by and large are headed by women.

The HILDA Survey has been running since 2001, and the same 17,000 or so Australians are interviewed every year on issues such as health, family and work. The newest report, published today, is based on 2018 figures, the most recent available data.

According to the HILDA Survey, 52% of single-parent households with kids aged under four used formal childcare back in 2016. But in 2018, that share has dropped to 35%. The same trend isn’t observed among coupled parents.

While it is unclear what is driving this trend, it is potentially a sign many single parents simply can’t afford formal childcare. If so, it risks kicking off a vicious cycle in which lack of money, lack of childcare, and lack of employment opportunities trap single parents in entrenched disadvantage.

Single parents are getting priced out of daycare, triggering a vicious cycle of entrenched poverty About 52% of single parent households with kids aged under four used formal childcare back in 2016. But in 2018, however, that share has dropped to just 35%. HILDA 2020

Read more: The child-care sector needs an overhaul, not more tinkering with subsidies and tax deductions

A worrying trend

There doesn’t appear to be an obvious explanation for this phenomenon. The change in usage patterns comes at a time when childcare subsidies had just been substantially increased for the majority of low- and middle-income households, reducing their out-of-pocket expenses.

There also appears to be no reduced need for care; employment levels among single parents remained stable even while childcare usage dropped.

It may be many single parents are instead relying on informal childcare arrangements, such as relatives or friends. The HILDA data reveal a growing number of single parents with kids below school age, who have a job but no formal care arrangement.

In 2018, only 52% of all employed single parents with young kids had a formal care arrangement, compared with an average of 70% over the previous ten years.

A woman and child walk together. In 2018, only 52% of all employed single parents with young kids had a formal care arrangement, compared to an average of 70% over the previous ten years. Shutterstock

This is a worrying new trend. It sets up single parents for a host of logistical problems juggling multiple care arrangements and unreliable access to care, which can jeopardise their employment in the longer term.

And because it’s unregulated, there’s no way to enforce quality standards of informal care arrangements. That could potentially limit children’s social, behavioural and cognitive development if they miss out on formal care.

As in other countries, Australian single-parent families who don’t access formal childcare are the most disadvantaged; they are more likely to live in remote or regional Australia, and in socially and economically disadvantaged locations, and the parents in these families have lower educational qualifications.

There is a strong link between families that don’t or cannot access formal childcare, and families affected by poverty and lack of employment.

A cycle of poverty and entrenched disadvantage

HILDA tracks households over time, so we can also see each family’s circumstances and childcare usage in the year prior. When we analysed single-parent households over time, we found two important facts.

First, the falling rates of formal childcare usage among single parents isn’t just about a shift over time, in which fewer and fewer single new families begin to use the formal care sector when their child is old enough.

It is, to a large extent, about families that already had a formal care arrangement in place, but cancelled their enrolments before their kids reached school age.

And second, just before these families stopped using childcare, they tended to be somewhat poorer than their counterparts who continued to use it — but not as poor as the families are who don’t use childcare in the long run.

In other words, there could be a vicious cycle whereby lack of income (whether because the single parent is unemployed, or employed on a low wage) prompts families to drop childcare, further worsening their economic position down the track because work opportunities are more constrained. It’s hard to maximise work opportunities if you don’t have reliable childcare.

A woman works while holding a baby. It appears that even after the recent increase in subsidies, our childcare system is badly set up. Shutterstock

The HILDA Survey had already shown a substantial increase in relative poverty rates among single-parent households — from 15% in 2016 to 25% in 2018, well above the 10.7% overall rate of relative poverty.

Given the devastating effects of COVID-19, we can expect the number of single-parent families that enter a cycle of poverty and entrenched disadvantage will only grow further.

It appears that even after the recent increase in subsidies, our childcare system is badly set up to help them find a way out.

Read more: Interactive: how have your family's fortunes changed? Use this drag-and-drop tool to find out

This piece was co-published with the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit.

Authors: Barbara Broadway, Senior Research Fellow, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne

Read more https://theconversation.com/single-parents-are-getting-priced-out-of-daycare-triggering-a-vicious-cycle-of-entrenched-poverty-150362

NEWS

A vaccine will be a game-changer for international travel. But it's not everything

ShutterstockThe United Kingdom yesterday became the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use. Following a review by the country’s drug regulator, the UK government announced it...

Researchers, librarians, filmmakers and teachers are eager for the copyright reforms the government has promised

Ea Maples/Unsplash, CC BYIn August, the communications minister announced a series of changes to copyright laws to “better support the needs of Australians and public institutions to access material in...

From 'arse-ropes' to 'flying venom', a history of how we have come to talk about viruses and medicine

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDSymptom, virus, epidemic, quarantine.We’ve become used to these terms in 2020. But the “COVID-19 vocabulary” might have been very different had it not been for a...

the singlet — a short history of an Australian icon

'Shearing sheep, Barcaldine District', 1948Queensland State Archives, Item ID ITM1154347There’s no denying the popularity of the singlet. The Chesty Bond, Australia’s best known singlet, has notched up more than 350...

China plays reverse 'poke the bear'

In the moment, Scott Morrison’s angry denunciation of the offensive Chinese tweet about alleged Australian war crimes seemed a reasonable response.In retrospect, it was probably ill-judged. This is so even...

Should Australians be worried about waiting for a COVID vaccine when the UK has just approved Pfizer's?

ShutterstockThe news that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has gained emergency approval in the United Kingdom and may be distributed to selected high-risk groups as early as next week is welcome.Headlines also...

Climate change is resulting in profound, immediate and worsening health impacts, over 120 researchers say

ShutterstockClimate change is resulting in profound, immediate and worsening health impacts, and no country is immune, a major new report from more than 120 researchers has declared. This year’s annual...

6 unis had Hindi programs. Soon there could be only 1, and that's not in Australia's best interests

La Trobe University is in talks to discontinue its Hindi program, along with Greek and Indonesian. In the mid-1990s, six Australian universities taught Hindi. If La Trobe ends its program...

Thomas Banks’ Quest for Love tackles life as a gay man with disability

Thomas Banks' Quest for LoveReview: Thomas Banks’ Quest for Love, directed by Pip KellyIn Thomas Banks’ Quest for Love, Banks — a writer and comedian with cerebral palsy — addresses...

Why can politicians so easily dodge accountability for their mistakes? The troubling answer: because they can

Damian Shaw/AAPIn recent days, the issue of government accountability was brought into sharp focus — again — when NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitted that community grants awarded primarily to councils...

Feeling sore after exercise? Here's what science suggests helps (and what doesn't)

ShutterstockHave you been hitting the gym again with COVID restrictions easing? Or getting back into running, cycling, or playing team sports?As many of you might’ve experienced, the inevitable muscle soreness...

Eliminating most homelessness is achievable. It starts with prevention and 'housing first'

The stereotype of a homeless person – those living in tents or sleeping in parks or doorways – is just the visible tip of the much larger crisis of homelessness...



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion













Popular articles from Modern Australian

Be Smart Before Buying That CarWater Costs in SydneyThe Pros and Cons of Artificial Christmas TreesThe most popular types of rouletteMaintaining your asphalt driveway is made easy with these pointers5 Effective Car Mods for Absolute BeginnersYour New Home Needs A Great GardenHow To Identify Signs Of Stress In Your ChildInstalling Shade Sails On your Garden10 Tips for Clearing a Blocked DrainCarpet Cleaning: Where Is It Headed In The Future?Common Repairs to Shipping ContainersThe lifestyle Choices of the Australian Millennials5 Tips For Creating a Kid-Friendly Backyard