New Productivity Commission report shows Government failure to rein in early learning costs and lift participation in crucial year before school
2 February 2021 – The Productivity Commission’s annual report into early childhood education and care reveals Australia’s early learning system is under significant strain with child care costs rising and too many children still missing out, according to the Thrive by Five campaign.
Key findings of the report, released today, include:
- Out of pocket costs for preschool continue to rise.
- Enrolment in preschool in the year before school has fallen for three years in a row, from 92.4% in 2016 to 87.7% in 2019.
- Federal funding for preschool has fallen in real terms over the past two years.
Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill said the Productivity Commission’s findings were further proof that Australia’s early learning system is failing to adequately support parents, carers and children.
“The strain on our early learning system stems from insecure, year by year funding decisions, along with a lack of long-term of planning and co-ordination between the States and Federal Government,” he said.
“The Federal Government’s childcare subsidy can’t keep pace with soaring costs, leaving parents out of pocket and household budgets under pressure. It is likely this subsidy will be wiped out by rising child care costs in most states across the nation, perhaps as soon as the end of the year.
“We’re going backwards when it comes to preschool attendance, with some of our most vulnerable young children missing out, including children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, children from non-English speaking backgrounds and children with a disability.
“These early years are crucial for a child’s development and setting them up for later life.”
Mr Weatherill said Australia’s early learning system was not just failing families and children, it was hampering the nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
“You can’t get a sluggish economy moving again if the rising cost of early learning and care is chewing up large slabs of the family budget and holding parents, especially women, back from participating fully in the workforce,” he said.
“Investing in universal, high quality early learning and care across Australia would be akin to using a defibrillator on our economy, jump-starting increases in women’s workforce participation, generating new jobs in early education and giving children the best possible start in life.
“A key test of the upcoming Federal Budget will be whether it can prioritise early education funding and availability and ease pressure on young families.”