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29 May 2020

Childcare an essential service for women in small business

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell says childcare is an essential service for women in small businesses, calling for ‘free childcare’ to continue beyond the June 30 expiry date.

“Women make up more than a third of Australia’s small business owners (35%) and more than 5 million women work in these businesses,” Ms Carnell says.

“The latest ABS labour force data shows women have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis, with the female workforce participation rate falling to 58.4% in April.

“Many of the women who are still working and running their businesses are relying on JobKeeper payments, which will not cover childcare fees if they are reinstated in full from July 1.

“This could force mothers out of their jobs, which is detrimental to working families and even worse for the economy.

“Now is the time for the government to be considering innovative ways to increase participation rates for women to ensure productivity gains and to benefit businesses.

“There are a number of ways for government to do this, including making childcare tax-effective or by phasing in an expanded subsidy scheme as recommended by the Grattan Institute, estimated to deliver an $11 billlion boost to the economy.   

“Economists have often referred to the ‘double dividend’ of childcare increasing workforce participation rates and providing early education.   

“Equally, the government needs to look at supporting childcare centres, many of which are small businesses, which have suffered losses due to the structure of the current measures.

“Despite the struggles some of these childcare centres have had with the current package, many are warning of dire consequences for their businesses if there is a sudden snap-back in a month’s time.

“Ultimately the government has a golden opportunity now to completely re-think the childcare system. Small business and the Australian economy depends on it.”