Cabinet needs to rethink cheap childcare plans: agencies

Children's coloured building blocks
Photo: Pixabay

Cabinet plans to make childcare (almost) free for all working parents will not benefit people on low incomes or reduce the number of part-time workers, government think-tanks CPB and SCP have said.

Research into the effects of free childcare show that people on high incomes would  use childcare services more and this will up the price, including for those on low incomes who are already compensated for 96% of the costs.

“The negatives will be felt by those who need childcare most”, the agencies said in their evaluation, urging the cabinet to reconsider the measure which has been costed at around €2.5 billion a year.

The money would be better spent getting disadvantaged children into childcare where they would, for instance, learn better language skills which would help them in primary school, CPB researcher Egbert Jongen told broadcaster NOS.

To make this happen, benefit criteria would have to be changed, he said. Couples only get childcare benefits if both parents work and children whose parents don’t work hardly use child-care facilities. “This needs to be looked at in the light of children’s development,” Jongen said.

If the aim of the measure is to bridge the inequality gap, it makes no sense to offer the middle and higher incomes the same 96% compensation, he said.

The agencies also doubt the cheap childcare will induce women, many of whom work part-time, to work longer hours.  “The number of hours is also influenced by social norms and the type of work they do,” the researchers said.

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