WE are facing a crisis in childcare that requires an urgent government solution.
Working families are paying up to a quarter of their income on childcare as the cost of the service goes through the roof.
The latest report from the Productivity Commission on government services indicates that the cost of childcare is spiralling at three times the rate of inflation.
Families already struggling under the burden of rising living costs are finding that childcare is rapidly becoming their biggest expense.
A family earning $115,000 a year before tax — the combined income of a teacher and a shop assistant — is paying 24.3 per cent of take-home pay on childcare fees.
Families earning $150,000 — the equivalent of two average wages — are losing 22 per cent of their disposable income on childcare.
For those families at the bottom of the ladder — on about $35,000 a year — a fifth of the household budget goes on the service.
More than 27,000 parents in Victoria need to find a spot in childcare so they can go to work, but can’t. Across the nation, that figure is 100,000.
Even in regional areas like south-west Victoria, the pressure on families to get in early or miss out on childcare is intense.
Childcare already receives government subsidies, but these latest figures suggest the entire system requires a serious revamp.
All parents can get a childcare subsidy, with a 50 per cent rebate for those families with both parents working, studying or spending up to 15 hours a week looking for work.
The government has been urged by the commission to axe some of the subsidies because the cost is so great.
However, this will be seen as yet another political hot potato for a government already in serious trouble for what voters see as budgetary attacks on poor families.
Any foray into child care at this juncture would only make matters worse.
More childcare places are needed urgently to ease the pressure on the system and to lessen the cost burden on families.