The cost of child care

Marlyn Glen

31 January 2014

Ed Miliband tweeted this message last February before visiting the Swedish Parliament on a fact-finding visit about the Swedes’ child-care system. 
"Just arriving at Swedish Parliament building, passing two Swedish fathers with pushchairs. Scandinavian scene."


Greater state assistance for paternal participation in child care is very much part of their welfare state.

Child care is a cherished national institution in Sweden; almost comparable with our pride in the institution of our National Health Service.

Attendance at pre-school is regarded as part of growing up.
The system is comprehensive, educational and affordable.

It was developed as an answer to a shortage of labour, principally of women, to support the national economy with the result that, the official website guide to Sweden broadcasts,  

“Eighty-one per cent of all children have a mother who goes out to work and ninety-two per cent have fathers with jobs.”
In the UK maternal employment rates stand at 67 per cent.


Early Childhood Education and Care Provision in Sweden
Enrolment rates for pre-school in Sweden are enviable :
Up to age 1 28 per cent of children are enrolled

At aged 2 it is 88 per cent
At aged 3 it is 93 per cent.

At aged 4 it is 94 per cent.

At aged 5 it is 94 per cent. 
The maximum costs for a full-time place are based on a sliding scale.

For many parents in this country, facing childcare costs that could match a mortgage, these Swedish costs are unbelievable :

For the first child in a family no more than £117 per month
For the second child no more than £78 per month
For the third child no more than £39 per month

After-school care costs range from a maximum of £78 per month for the first child of a family to £39 per month for the third child.

The advantage of organised universal child care extends beyond the well-being of the national economy.

It leads towards greater equality at work, in society and at home as responsibility for bring up children is shared between the working mother and the working father.

Meanwhile, almost a year after Ed Miliband’s visit to a country that understandably prides itself on its childcare provision, back in the UK the Resolution Foundation and Mumsnet reported that two in three mothers regard the cost of childcare as an obstacle to working more.

The other massive barrier was the inability or reluctance of employers to offer more hours of work.

Plainly, increased child support is a popular measure with four decades of success to prove its worth.

More women at work has been a crucial factor in the rise in living standards over the past 20 years.

In countries such as Sweden the cost of child care is regarded as a cost worth paying for having more women at work, progress in equal rights, and employment and life opportunities for women.

In sharp contrast in the UK, the cost of child care is a symptom of what Ed Miliband rightly describes as the “cost of living crisis” of fewer hours of work, and no real growth in pay in the face of soaring gas and electricity bills.




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