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Services and Assistance: Formal Child Care
CHILDREN AGED 0-11 YEARS USING FORMAL CARE - 2002
USE OF FORMAL CHILD CARE
Over the past decade, parents have increasingly used formal child care services. In 2002, one in four children aged less than 12 years spent some time in formal child care (787,400), an increase from one in five children in 1993.
While more children attended formal child care in 2002 than in 1993, the amount of time children spent in formal care was similar. In both 2002 and 1993, 44% of children in formal care received less than 10 hours per week of care, with a further 34% receiving 10-19 hours. A relatively small proportion of children in formal care (9%) received 30 hours or more care per week in 2002, down from 12% in 1993. The median weekly hours of formal care in 2002, was 12 hours. Hours of care were higher for children in long day care (a median of 16 hours per week) than for children in before/after school care (4 hours).
The rate of use of formal care was higher for young children. In 2002, less than half (45%) of all children aged 0-4 years spent some time in formal care, up from 34% in 1993. This dropped to 13% of 5-11 year olds (9% in 1993). Very young children had the lowest rates of child care use, with 7% of children aged less than one year spending some time in formal care. Between the ages of one and four years, the use of formal care increased rapidly to almost three-quarters of children aged 3-4 years (73%). The high use of formal care among three and four year olds partly reflects preschool attendance (see Australian Social Trends 2004, Attending preschool, pp. 98-100.)
...TYPE OF FORMAL CARE USED
The types of formal child care services used by young children were different to those used by older children. Among 0-4 year olds, the most commonly used formal care services in 2002 were long day care (23% of children aged 0-4 years), preschool (16%), and family day care (6%). For 5-11 year olds, before/after school care (9%) was the most common.
While there has been increased use of most types of formal care services since the early 1990s, long day care and before/after school care have experienced the highest growth. The proportion of 0-4 year olds spending some time in long day care doubled from 11% in 1993 to 23% in 2002. Over the same period, the proportion of 5-11 year olds in before/after school care almost doubled (from 5% to 9%).
The use of formal care was more common for children from one-parent families than for children from couple families. In 2002, 51% of 0-4 year olds and 16% of 5-11 year olds from one-parent families spent some time in formal care. In couple families, 43% of children aged 0-4 years and 12% of 5-11 year olds used formal care.
The proportions of children using formal care from both one and couple parent families have increased since the early 1990s. In 1993, 23% of children aged 0-11 years from one-parent families and 19% of children from couple parent families spent some time in formal care. In 2002, these proportions had increased to 27% and 25% respectively.
One of the main reasons parents use child care is to participate in the work force.(SEE ENDNOTE 1) In 2002, use of formal care was more common for children with employed parents. For couple families, 30% of children aged 0-11 years with both parents employed spent some time in formal care, compared to 19% of children with one parent employed, and 17% of children with neither parent employed. In one-parent families, the rate of use was higher - 38% of children aged 0-11 years whose parent was employed, and 20% of children whose parent was not employed, spent some time in formal care.
Overall, half the children aged less than 12 years using child care did so because of their parents' work commitments. Work related reasons accounted for 84% of children whose formal care included before and after school care programs; 60% of those attending family day care; and 55% of children attending long day care.
...COST OF FORMAL CARE
The Child Care Benefit, introduced in July 2000, assists parents in paying for care regardless of income - all families receive some assistance, with a maximum rate paid to those on low income. This benefit may have encouraged parents to access formal care services because of the reimbursement offered, often paid directly to the child care service providers.(SEE ENDNOTE 3)
The cost of formal child care varies according to the hours of use and type of service used. In 2002, the median weekly cost of formal care ranged from $9 for care of less than five hours to $105 for care of 45 hours or more a week. Long day care and family day care had the highest median weekly costs, $38 and $21 per week respectively.
PREFERENCES FOR USING MORE FORMAL CARE
There are a range of reasons for parents wanting to use more formal child care for their children. Some parents require additional formal care to enable them to participate in employment and training, while other parents require care to engage in community or personal activities. Not all may need additional formal care on a regular, longer term basis. Some parents may need additional care on an occasional, ad hoc basis to cover unexpected or irregular commitments.
PREFERENCE FOR USING MORE FORMAL CARE FOR CHILDREN AGED 0-11 YEARS(a)
In 2002, parents wanted more formal care for 106,400 children aged 0-4 years. Long day care was the main type of care wanted for 40%of these children, followed by occasional care (28%) and family day care (23%). For older children aged 5-11 years, parents wanted more formal care for 68,000 children. Before/after school care was the main type of care wanted for 67% of these children.
Work related reasons such as attending or looking for work, and study or training were the most common reasons given by parents wanting to use more formal care. They were identified for almost half (47%) of children aged 0-11 years whose parents wanted more formal care. Other reasons were personal such as shopping, sport, entertainment, or visiting the doctor or dentist (for 35% of children), and the view that care was beneficial and helped prepare the child for school (16%). In 1993, 38% of children for whom more care was preferred had parents who gave work related reasons for wanting additional care.
The most common reason given by parents wanting more formal care for not using more care was that centres were booked out or no places were available. This was identified for over a third (35%) of children aged 0-11 years whose parents wanted more formal care. Other reasons included formal care being too expensive (17%) and formal care not existing in the area (12%).
FLEXIBLE WORKING ARRANGEMENTS
Flexible working arrangements provide parents with more options to balance work and family responsibilities. These arrangements include flexible working hours, permanent part-time work, home-based work and job sharing. In 2002, of families with at least one parent employed, 56% used such work arrangements to assist them to care for their children. Most popular were flexible working hours (35%) and permanent part-time work (24%).
In 2002, 70% of employed mothers utilised work arrangements to help them care for their children, an increase of two percentage points since 1993. Less than a third (30%) of employed fathers used work arrangements to help them care for their children in 2002, but this was an increase of six percentage points compared with employed fathers in 1993.
1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2003, Australia's Welfare 2003, AIHW, Canberra.
2 Department of Family and Community Services annual report 2002-03, <http://www.facs.gov.au/internet/facsinternet.nsf/via/paes2003/$File/outcome1_stronger_families.pdf>, accessed 25 March 2004.
3 Department of Family and Community Services 2002, 2002 Census of Child Care Services.
4 Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS)<http://www.facs.gov.au/chldcare/child/finding.htm>, accessed 25 March 2004.