|Title:||The childcare policy challenge in Australia|
|Keywords:||Early childhood education -- Australia.|
Child care -- Australia.
|Publisher:||Sydney University Press|
|Citation:||Kids Count: Better early childhood education and care in Australia|
|Abstract:||Australian newspapers often feature stories about child care and its potential benefits or hazards and many parents read them diligently, wondering if they are making the right decisions for their own children. Controversy over how to care for children has also given rise to new books by Australian authors, with some arguing that child care has negative effects on children (Biddulph 2006; Manne 2005). Pointing in the other direction are reports by international organisations that emphasise the positive and often critical impact that high quality early childhood education and care can have on children’s current and future development and wellbeing – particularly children from low-income households (OECD 2006; UNESCO 2006). Amid all this debate, however, a growing number and proportion of Australian infants and young children are using diverse forms of child care. This growth reflects changing economic, labour market and social factors, particularly the increasing rate of labour market participation of Australian women in the absence of universal paid parental leave. This makes the provision of a system of good early childhood education and care of pressing importance. In the chapters that follow, we take the demand for child care as a given, and we focus on how it can best be provided with the best outcomes. The provision of a good childcare system is far from the full picture of supports that Australian citizens and their children need. We recognise that there are very good arguments for discussion of other policies, especially leave arrangements that facilitate familial care. We strongly support the creation of a national system of paid parental leave. International evidence about its effects on child health (see for example The Economic Journal, February 2005) and maternal wellbeing is accumulating. We believe a good case exists for a period of at least a year of paid parental leave. To be meaningful for workers who depend upon their own earnings, this must be paid at a living wage level. Given the strong preference in Australia for parental care, a period of one or one and a half years paid parental leave would give many families a practical choice to care for their infants and young children. At present less than half of all working Australian women have access to any paid parental leave and only a small proportion for longer than a few weeks or months. This makes early childhood education and care a significant element of social policy in Australia. But it seems that policies around early childhood education and care in Australia are in a muddle, and that the costs of this muddle are very high for some. It is especially high for women who want to work and cannot, for the economy, for households and, in particular, for those who can speak least in their own defence – Australian infants and children, and their carers. It was concern about this muddle and its impact upon those who have least voice in the ‘system’ that led to the development of a research workshop on the issue, and this book.|
|Rights and Permissions:||Copyright Sydney University Press|
|Type of Work:||Book chapter|
|Appears in Collections:||Kids Count: Better early childhood education and care in Australia|
|KidsPocockCh1.pdf||112.72 kB||Adobe PDF|
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