Women suffering the burden of a broken childcare system.

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2024 National Women's Conference
13 October 2023

Conference, we know the childcare system in the UK is in crisis. Wages for those delivering childcare are often too low to live on, but the costs for parents are going up and up. This has a disproportionate impact on not only the women working in the sector but those women who bare the brunt of childcare responsibilities.

In 2022, 98% of paid staff involved in delivering childcare and early years provision were reported by providers to be female and research has found that three in five childcare workers earn less than the real living wage. Concerningly, one in four children with a parent working in social care are living in poverty.

Conference, we know that low pay and insecure work impacts on recruitment into the childcare sector, with many skilled and experienced women workers finding higher paid work in less stressful environments. Recruitment into childcare settings is reportedly the most difficult in the North East, Midlands and East of England and there has been an 87% rise in the number of nurseries closing their doors.

Conference, worryingly, although seven in ten nurseries being against any changes to statutory ratios for two-year-olds, the government pressed on and changed these from 1:4 to 1:5 which will further strain the already damaged system and cause women workers to rethink their career paths. The Governments plans to extend the childcare provision will undoubtedly cause an increase in demand but with not enough investment or transparency in the sector, this will further burden a sector under intense pressure.

Families are struggling to find nursery places for their children and even if they can, the soaring costs of nursery fees mean that for some, almost 80% of their wages are spent on nursery fees alone. Childcare costs are rising in every region, but has hit hardest in the North East with an almost 20% increase over the last five years.

Conference, we know that the lack of affordable and accessible childcare disproportionately affects women. The TUC calculates that almost 1.5million women are kept out of the labour market because of their caring responsibilities, compared with 230,000 men. Two thirds of women with childcare responsibilities believe they have missed out on career progression; women are the ones expected to adapt workforce participation to carry out family responsibilities; and there are around 870,000 stay-at-home mothers who want to go back to work but can’t afford to, while others are leaving their jobs altogether because they can’t afford their children’s care.

Conference its time to act – “tackling these issues is integral not only to the wellbeing of our women and workplaces, it is crucial to the functioning of any strong economy”.

We ask the National Women’s Committee to:

1: Work with Regional Women’s Groups and service groups to build a body of evidence showing the effects that the broken childcare system is having on women members who not only work in the childcare setting but who are users of childcare and use the results to create a campaign to highlight the impacts.

2: Work with the NEC and all appropriate sections of the union and our partners, including Labour Link to lobby for changes to the childcare system.

3: Report back on the findings to the 2025 Women’s Conference.