The cost of childcare has ballooned by 150 per cent since 2003, with some communities paying up to $170 per day, per child. Despite this increase, there are now more children in childcare than ever before, with 23.7 per cent of pre-school aged children enrolled in 2011, NATSEM reports.
Sending a child to a childcare centre five days a week for a standard 48 week full time year is now more expensive than sending them to the most expensive private school in Australia, Geelong Grammar, which costs $34,276 per year.
A government subsidy of 50 to 80 per cent of childcare alleviates some of the pressure, but childcare is still a huge cost for families, particularly those on single incomes or with more than one pre-school aged child.
The increase in cost has seen some families look outside traditional childcare centres to find more flexible and affordable solutions.
Bubs and Boardrooms, in Sydney’s Five Dock, is a co-working space that provides on-site childcare. It was founded by two mothers, Liz Graham and Carly Roy, who were frustrated by the shortage of affordable daycare options. It’s primarily used by parents who either work or run their own business from home.
“You can come to us, you can work from our office and you can have your kids on hand all day,” said Graham.
Before founding the centre Graham had her son Gus in a childcare centre at a rate of $160 per day, a space which she only secured through a personal connection.
“My husband was working with a friend whose boyfriend’s sister’s cousin was in there and knew that there was a spot,” she said. “I had to take it a month before I needed it and I had to take days that I didn’t want just to secure my spot.”
A day at Bubs and Boardrooms costs $85, inclusive of childcare and all costs associated with running an office such as power and internet. Because the cost is for a working space, it is a tax-deductible business expense.
Other families look to private or in-home care to fill their childcare needs.
“You can place a nanny for $700 per week which is less than the cost of centre-based care, but we have families paying nannies up to $200,000 per year,” said Scarlett Hyde, a governess.
A governess is a nanny with teaching qualifications. They are usually reserved for rural or affluent families, but Hyde runs an agency and believes that the demand for services will increase once the proposed change to the government’s childcare subsidy is introduced, which offers a rebate for in-home care as well as centre-based childcare.
“A centre only runs from 6am to 6pm, and not everyone works these hours,” she said.
These solutions, among others, highlight the need for increased affordability, availability and flexibility in the childcare system.
“I shouldn’t have to choose between going back to work or raising my son,” said Graham. “I should be able to have my cake and eat it too.”