ASBFEO calls for affordable childcare for women in small business

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The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell has reiterated her support for more programs that will benefit women working in the small-business sector. Speaking in support of the Thrive By Five campaign, Carnell threw her support behind universal access to high-quality, affordable early education, along with affordable childcare as women entrepreneurs are working to get their small businesses back up and running.

“Women make up more than a third of Australia’s small-business owners (38 per cent),” Carnell pointed out. “The latest data from the Productivity Commission shows there was a 21.7 per cent rise in the number of parents and carers in Australian who didn’t work due to childcare costs in 2020, compared with the previous year.

“According to those figures, 90,000 Australian parents stayed out of the workforce last year because the cost of childcare was too high,” Carnell added. “At the moment Australia’s childcare costs are the fourth highest in the OECD, taking an average of 27 per cent of household income. For women and families in small businesses, particularly those that are relying on JobKeeper or still in the process of recovering from the COVID crisis, childcare is unaffordable.”

Carnell bemoaned the fact that prohibitively high childcare fees mean that more often that not mothers have to spend more time at home looking after their kids rather than working to grow their business, a scnario she described as “bad for small business and even worse for the economy”.

The ASBFEO called on the government to consider innovative ways to increase participation rates for women to ensure productivity and for the benefit of the businesses. Her office is advocating for making childcare more tax-effective or phasing in an expanded subsidy scheme such as that recommended by the Grattan Institute, which is estimated to potentially deliver an $11 billlion boost to the economy.

“Crucially, affordable childcare would allow more women to work on growing their businesses – an important contribution to Australia’s economic recovery,” Carnell concluded.