With the Australian birth rate booming, and child care places rarer than hen's teeth, many families are looking to alternatives when it comes to the care of their children. Nannies are often considered to be a luxury out of reach to most families. But for some families, especially those who require flexible hours or have more than two children, hiring their very own Mary Poppins may be more affordable than first thought. We crunched the figures to find out how much a nanny really costs.
Child care centres
Fees vary from about $60 - $120 per day per child depending on the childcare centre location. Many provide food and nappies inclusive of cost, while some centres ask parents to supply everything. Centres usually bill by the day (10.5 hours), whether or not you require a full day's services.
Parents may be eligible for a means-tested Child Care Benefit subsidy which reduces the upfront fees by up to $3.60 per hour per child.
All parents are eligible for a 50% government rebate on out-of-pocket expenses when using an approved child care centre (capped at $7,778 per child per year), which is paid by the Family Assistance Office quarterly.
Nannies are usually paid $20-$30 per hour per family. Extra costs can include agency fees, superannuation and domestic worker's insurance.
Parents may be eligible for a means-tested Child Care Benefit subsidy if using a registered nanny, up to $0.60 per hour per child (based on 2008-2009 rates).
Working hours may be negotiated, which is convenient for families who need care outside of daycare operating hours.
An au-pair is a live-in domestic helper, usually young international students. An au pair may care for children and do light domestic duties in exchange for meals, accommodation and a small spending allowance (about $80-$120 pocket money per week +agency fee)
Family day care
Family day care is child care provided in the home of a registered or licensed carer for children aged from birth to 12 years. It is another affordable option, with fees around the vicinity of $4.50-$7.50 per hour dependent on geographical location and service. Family day care services are often run through local council schemes. Parents usually provide all meals, nappies etc. Special hours may be negotiated with the carer, including overnight care.
Child to carer ratios
Choosing the right child care is more than an economic decision. Currently, child: staff ratios at daycare centres range from 5:1 for the under two's, to 10:1 for four-to-six year olds.
Family daycarers may look after up to four or five children below school age (dependant on the state or territory legislation), or up to seven children under 13, in total, including their own.
With that in mind, families may consider the smaller child: carer ratio offered by a nanny to be beneficial and offer more continuity and attention to their child.
Care that suits your family
Ultimately, everyone's situation is different. Parents who work odd hours may find the inflexibility of a daycare centre unable to meet their needs. For families with children of school age, may find it helpful to have a nanny collect an older child from school while caring for young siblings.
To calculate the child care benefit rate you may be eligible for, visit the Centrelink website.
Looking for a nanny? Visit Find a Babysitter to find a carer in your area.