Working full-time for loose change and the privilege of not going backwards in your career while most of your money goes to someone else for looking after your kids isn’t really the Australian fair-go way. Picture: AAP
Working full-time for loose change and the privilege of not going backwards in your career while most of your money goes to someone else for looking after your kids isn’t really the Australian fair-go way. Picture: AAP

Hey politicians, here’s a radical idea: Make kindy free

IN the lead-up to the May 18 sausage sizzle, Labor has announced some additional subsidies that could mean free childcare for low income families and thousands off the childcare bill for households earning up to $174,00 a year.

It builds on the Coalition's 2018 shake up that reportedly led to the reduction in fees for one million Australians accessing childcare.

But some people think it's "unfair" and "unnecessary" for taxpayers to essentially foot the bill for your kids' care. They think parents should look after their own kids on their own dime.

"It's not our fault you had kids," they say. "They're noisy on planes and never clean up after themselves. Why would you have them in the first place?"

It's hard to argue with, really. I guess we just got bored of uninterrupted sleep, adventurous holidays and eating breakfast at cafes in peace.

When parents of young kids line up to vote on May 18, it’s likely they’ll have childcare on their minds. Picture: Craig Wilson/AAP
When parents of young kids line up to vote on May 18, it’s likely they’ll have childcare on their minds. Picture: Craig Wilson/AAP

There's also, according to this Reddit thread I just skimmed, an innate and subconscious basic human desire to procreate.

So, yes, you're technically correct that if people stopped being selfish/human and having kids, you wouldn't have to commit your hard-earned to subsidise what you wrongly think is supervised LEGO play.

You also wouldn't need to worry about climate change and franking credits because human life would cease to exist.

Childcare is a contentious and complicated issue but it's also misunderstood by people without kids - or people who forgot what it's like to have them. It's not about giving parents a chop out, or a day to do fun stuff like shop for groceries and do eight loads of laundry.

There are well-documented developmental benefits to preschool education, but for many Australians - and especially women - childcare is about choice.

There is currently a 10 per cent gap in workforce participation between women and men (I surely don't need to tell you who that is in favour of).

But that gap gets even bigger when you look at part time and full-time work. Forty per cent of women are in part-time work as opposed to just 4.5 per cent of men.

Lowering the cost of childcare could go a long way addressing gender inequality in the workforce. Picture: Getty
Lowering the cost of childcare could go a long way addressing gender inequality in the workforce. Picture: Getty

There's also enormous economic benefit to increasing participation rates of women in the workforce, to the tune of $60 billion - according to a recent KPMG report - if parity were achieved.

Childcare is arguably the biggest lever we have to pull to address that inequity, and it's worth addressing because we're not stuck in an infinity loop of the TV show Mad Men and women should be afforded the same opportunities to build their careers as men.

Childcare costs are so crippling that people are working to maintain their position in a workforce that doesn't take too kindly to someone spending a few years out of the game. "What do you mean you haven't worked since 2014? Do you even know what WIPs and donuts mean?"

When we had all three kids in childcare - I guess it's our fault we "chose" to have twins - one of our salaries was being almost entirely pumped into having someone look after them while we worked.

Working full-time for a bit of loose change and the privilege of not going backwards in your career? Is that really the Australian fair-go way?

So while it's great our indistinguishable political parties are putting childcare high on the agenda, I'd argue they should go a step further and do something even more radical.

You don't have to be a parent to accept that public education is a good idea, so is it that much of a stretch to consider a model where kindergarten is free?

I'd really love to debate that with you, but it's 2.45pm and I'm running late to pick up the kids.

Darren Levin is a columnist for RendezView.

@darren_levin



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