Lack of affordable childcare keeps 70,000 mothers at home
More than willing to work ... Jackie Lloyd waited 20 months before securing two days a week for her 15-month-old daughter, Lyla, at a Miranda childcare centre. Photo: Ben Rushton
Almost 70,000 women are locked out of the workforce solely because they cannot get affordable childcare.
The group makes up 15 per cent of all unemployed women who say they want to work but cannot, according to the Bureau of Statistics. A further 13 per cent said they were either unavailable for work or unable to work more hours because there were no childcare places where they lived.
Parents need to be more flexible and maybe employers have to become a little more flexible if they can too.
Of the 454,000 women not in the labour force who wanted a job and were available to take up work, one out of four said caring for children prevented them from looking for employment, although 42 per cent of that group said they were satisfied with their arrangements.
The bureau has cautioned the figures are estimates, but they highlight the growing problem of underemployment across the gender divide, with more than 250,000 Australians over the age of 18 saying they would like to work longer, but could get only 16 hours or less a week.
The president of the Australian Childcare Alliance, Gwynn Bridge, said that occupancy levels at childcare centres across the country were hovering at about 70 per cent.
''This needs to be looked at demographically,'' she said. ''We know in some areas there is a very high occupancy rate but we also know in other areas there is a high vacancy rate reported.''
Ms Bridge said parents had to be realistic in their demands.
''There are generally lots of vacancies on Mondays and Fridays, but parents don't want them, they don't want to work these days if they are part-time,'' she said. ''Parents need to be more flexible and maybe employers have to become a little more flexible if they can too.''
Employer flexibility is something 26-year-old single mother Jackie Lloyd is banking on, after being told last week she had secured two days' placement at a childcare centre in Miranda after a 20-month wait.
She began putting her name on waiting lists when five months pregnant. Her daughter Lyla is now 15 months old.
Ms Lloyd must accept the place by the end of the month, so she has just three weeks to find a job which requires her on only Mondays and Tuesdays.
She is doubtful she will find such employment in her previous field, working for a legal firm as a trademark researcher.
''I put my name down early, I definitely didn't think it was going to be this tough,'' she said. ''I thought I would have five days a week [care] by now … there's something wrong with having a baby and waiting 15 months for a childcare spot.''