New analysis shows which electorates across Australia have the most expensive childcare, least childcare access and the most children that are developmentally at risk.
from the education policy think tank Mitchell Institute at Victoria University clearly shows that developmental vulnerability is linked to socioeconomic status with almost a three-fold difference in development vulnerability of children starting school when comparing Australia’s wealthiest and lowest income electorates.
While evidence shows early learning can overcome disadvantage and assist children to “catch up” before starting school, there was a trend towards lower availability of childcare in the electorates with the highest rates of development vulnerability.
The most expensive childcare was found in the wealthy inner-city Liberal held seats of Melbourne and Sydney. These seats, like Wentworth and North Sydney in NSW and Kooyong and Goldstein in Victoria, are where ‘teal’ independents are challenging the Coalition.
The new analysis shows record numbers of job vacancies in the childcare sector with the number of vacancies almost doubling in the past two years, highlighting a potential labour crisis.
Paper author Dr Peter Hurley, education policy lead at Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, said childcare was a leading election issue.
“One the main reasons early childhood is such a big election issue is that on average 6,000 families in every electorate use the childcare system. Parties are competing to demonstrate to these families their credentials to manage the many problems in the sector,” Dr Hurley said.
“The high cost and poor access to childcare is a limiting factor for women returning to the workforce and for families boosting their income to meet the rising cost of living, so it is no surprise that it has become an election issue,” Dr Hurley said.
“This latest analysis shows voters how their electorate compares in relation to childcare affordability, availability and whether children that are developmentally vulnerable have access to early learning that could assist them with their development,” he said.
Mitchell Institute estimates that the average out-of-pocket fees for the first child in childcare, using the average of 30 hours per week is around $5,000 per year. This is more than the average fees to a private primary school.
Failure to address the low pay of childcare educators has resulted in poor retention, with the new analysis showing a record number of job vacancies and limited ability to fill them.
“Educators are the backbone of the early childhood system, but low pay has led to a high number leaving their job and the sector is struggling with workforce shortages,” Dr Hurley said.
Electorates with the highest rates of children starting school with developmental vulnerability
Most expensive electorates for childcare
Electorates with limited access to childcare
Children per place
% In childcare deserts*
*three or more children vying for a single childcare place.