Childcare reform could help half a million women get into employment
As many as 500,000 mothers could enter into employment if reforms are introduced that would make childcare available at a lower cost and more flexible, a research report has argued.
The Institute for Public Policy Research, a prominent left wing think tank, identified that the introduction of measures which would make childcare more in reach of familyís finances, would substantially benefit the economy, potentially by over one billion pounds each year.
The study highlighted that childcare prices had increased by a monumental 77% in the last decade, whilst even part time nursery costs had risen by over £100 a week.
And the number of full-day nurseries has also decreased in recent times, with the IPPR estimating that the quantity has almost halved in the past 5 years.
The think tank has argued that the result of this lack of financial affordability and flexibility within childcare services has been that only 58% of mothers who have an infant child are currently in employment, which is far below the average displayed across the rest of the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which stands at 65%.
The government announced earlier this month that they were considering a number of childcare reforms at present that could see greater flexibility introduced in the working hours of grandparents, so that they can fill in for their children whilst they are at work.
However, as of yet, nothing has manifested, with the IPPR urging the government to act fast to improve the financial condition of both female workers and the economy in Britain.
ëLonger hours neededí
The report added that if measures were implemented that saw the percentage of mothers with infant children in employment rise to the OECD average, that a sizeable 150,000 women could be in work by next year.
"Too many mothers are missing from work, in large part because there is a lack of affordable childcare," said Dalia Ben-Galim, an IPPR associate director.
The issue of flexibility in the hours of childcare organisations has also been a stumbling block for mothers who wish to enter into employment, as many nurseries rigidly operate between the hours of 8am and 6pm.
This often clashes with working hours in a number of different industries, and the IPPR has suggested the introduction of a 15 hour free childcare programme for all young children to be entitled to, in a bid to bolster the levels of mothers entering into work.
The IPPR argued that the merits of introducing a scheme such as this could be immeasurable, particularly with the economy which could garner an extra £1.5 billion in the upcoming years.
"We could see fiscal gains of well over a billion pounds; maybe £1.5bn over the coming years," the IPPR's Graeme Cooke said.
The government has defended its current conduct, pointing out that it has already invested £2 billion on child support programmes, and identified their intention to use another £200 million via the Universal Credit scheme in order to improve the facilities available to mothers in the UK.
Under current legislation, mothers can receive one child support voucher if they show that they work at least 16 hours a week, though the new Universal Credit initiative will see their entitlements expand immeasurably through the introduction of voucher handouts on an hourly basis.
"From 2015, tax-free childcare will benefit up to 2.5 million working families, massively expanding support compared with the current system," said a government spokesperson.