Women whose childcare costs are too high have no point in working

Becky Lynn has always been passionate about her career. She started her own event management company after giving birth to her first child six years ago. When she had a second child, she found it very difficult to continue running her business and decided to look for a full-time job instead.

But Lynn, 36, from Surrey, was shocked to find that the costs of her childcare would make it impossible for her to work without losing money.

She was forced to turn down jobs because she would need at least £50,000 to cover her children’s care and transportation expenses. After months of searching I gave up. She says: “I want to work.” “I feel very upset. I have a lot of experience.”

Lynn is among a growing number of women who cannot afford to work due to the high costs of childcare.

About 1.5 million women do not work because they take care of their families or home, compared to 240,000 men, according to the Office for National Statistics.

For many women, this wasn’t by choice: 44% of non-working mothers said they would prefer to work but are unable to find affordable, appropriate, and reliable childcare, according to an ONS survey published last year. A quarter (23%) of mothers who work part-time said they would increase their working hours if they could get childcare.

More than two-thirds (68%) of parents have decided not to apply for a job or have had to turn down additional work because they can’t find affordable or flexible childcare, according to a survey by childcare app Bubble.

The cost of a full-time nursery place for a child under two has risen from an average of £236 per week in 2018 to £274 in 2022 – a jump of 16%. Over the course of a year, this averages out to £14,248. In some areas, this may be more expensive. For mothers of two, childcare costs can easily exceed what they earn.

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, calls the childcare system “broken”. “The lack of available and affordable childcare, exacerbated by the growing number of provider closures, is driving many women out of the workplace,” she says.

Childcare could become a major battleground during the upcoming election as Labor pledges to increase the number of state-run nurseries and more support for families. Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, recently reversed reforms introduced by his predecessor Liz Truss, which aimed to give families an extra 20 hours per week of childcare for free.

The lack of affordable childcare “fails mothers” and “needlessly pushes more and more families into poverty,” says Lauren Fabianski, of campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed.

Lynn says her two-year-old’s custody costs would have been £85 a day if she had had a full-time job. Cheaper nurseries said they had no places and could spend years on their waiting lists.

For her six-year-old daughter, she would have paid £20 for an after-school club, £10 for pre-school care, and about £40 a day to cover the school holidays. It would have cost thousands more to move.

“I never planned to be a stay-at-home mom”

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