Parents struggling to afford childcare were winners in tonight’s budget with major boosts to early childhood education, to offset costs of living pressures.  

To make childcare more affordable for families, Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced the  Government is investing $ 4.6 billion into child care subsidy increases for all eligible families with annual incomes less than $530,000, up to a maximum of 90 per cent. 

“Cheaper childcare is a game-changing investment in families, our workforce, and our economy,” Chalmers said early in his budget speech. 

Around 96 per cent of families with children in childcare will benefit and none will be worse off, according to Labor.  

Maria Lasswell, a parent to two children under the age of five has been struggling to afford childcare among other expenses in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.  

“My husband and I’s families both live overseas, so we do not have extra family support to help with the kids so I can only work part time. If I was to go back to work full time, it would cost us about $1000 a week, which we just cannot afford,” Maria told Central News prior to the budget announcement.  

With early childhood education being one of tonight’s biggest wins, parents like Maria are relieved. 

 “It’s so great to hear that the government is finally hearing us and has made commitments to increase subsidies. It seems like childcare may actually become free sometime in the future,” she said. 

The workforce is in crisis, there aren’t enough teachers, it’s unaffordable and it is affecting the women’s workforce due to their role as primary care takers.

Prior to the budget announcement, Alejandra Riquelme, a preschool director in Sydney said the government is not doing enough to support parents or early childhood educators. 

“The government is not doing enough. The workforce is in crisis, there aren’t enough teachers, it’s unaffordable and it is affecting the women’s workforce due to their role as primary care takers”, she told Central News. 

A 2021 survey by the United Workers Union revealed 73 per cent of 4,000 educators planned to leave the workforce over the next three years due to being ‘undervalued, exhausted and underpaid’. 

To support workforce sectors with skill and worker shortages like childcare, the government is making a $1 billion investment in fee free TAFE and vocational education places. Another 180,000 places will be provided as of next year, which allows students to study early childhood education which will contribute an increase of workers in the sector. 

With research showing it is more expensive for working mothers to work four or more days a week and pay for childcare than to stay home and look after their children, Riquelme also believes the cost of childcare affects mothers and their careers. 

“This affordability problem also affects mothers careers, they can’t work because they can’t afford childcare but if they don’t work, they can’t afford to live,” she said.  “It’s a national crisis that needs to be addressed.”  

As part of the government’s plan to increase female workforce participation, it is estimated the hours worked by women with young children will increase up to 1.4 million hours per week through 2023-34 as childcare becomes more affordable. This is an equivalent 37,000 extra workers.

Although the government has made improvements to commit to making early childhood education more affordable, many like Riquelme believe there is still a long road ahead.

Early childhood education should be free and it’s ridiculous how much they are making families pay,” she said. “Yes, this is a step forward, but there is still a long way to go for universal childcare. We don’t know what the breakdown of the subsidies is going to be nor if it will be effective.” 

Main image by Zara Powell.