The election campaign has not even begun and all the big parties are falling over each other to bring in free créche places for all the country’s kids. The idea appears in most manifestos. The politicians obviously see it as a vote catcher.
The real reason, of course, is to get more women to work and so help pay for looking after the aging population. In the 1970s working women were the exception rather than the rule – but all that has changed now. Today, mothers and fathers who work three or four days a week do so because they want to – and because they can afford a couple of days off. They actually like to spend time with their children. And you can get childcare if you want it. The waiting lists for créche places have been swept away in the private sector rush to exploit this new market. The price of a place is income-dependent and there are all sorts of employer and state subsidies – and tax breaks – to help with costs.
The big question is who is actually going to work in all these great new créches politicians would like to see set up? Oh, of course. It’s the perfect job for all the young mums who are apparently desperate to get back to work – if only they could afford a créche place in the first place. But of course it will mean they won’t have time to look after mum and dad…
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