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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1994  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/1994   
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Contents >> Family >> Family Services: Child care

Family Services: Child care

While the use of formal child care arrangements has increased steadily since 1984, most non-parental care continues to be provided by other family members.

The past two decades have seen increased use of, and public interest in, child care, and a corresponding increase in political involvement in this issue. During this period child care has emerged as a focus of public debate and government policy.

The number of government funded child care places increased from nearly 59,000 in 1984 to 211,000 in 1993. Government spending on child care is budgeted at $651.5 million for 1993-94.

However, despite the increased provision for, and use of, formal child care, most care of children, other than by parents, is provided on an informal basis, mainly by other family members.


Types of child care

The term child care refers to arrangements (other than parental care) made for the care of children under 12 years of age. The various types of care used can be grouped into two main categories, formal care and informal care.
  • Formal care is regulated care away from the child's home and includes attendance at: a pre-school or kindergarten; a child care centre, long day care centre or family day care; a before or after school care program; other formal care arrangements such as occasional care in shopping centres etc.
  • Informal care is non-regulated care either in the child's home or elsewhere. It includes care given by family members (such as the child's brothers or sisters, grandparents or other relatives), friends or neighbours, and paid baby sitters.


Trends in the use of child care
Between 1984 and 1993, the proportion of children under 12 years of age receiving some kind of formal child care increased from 12% to 19%. The greatest proportional increase was among 6-11 year olds (from 2% to 6%). At the same time, the proportion of 0-2 year olds receiving formal care more than doubled (from 8% to 17%) and the proportion of 3-5 year olds receiving formal care (other than pre-school/kindergarten) almost doubled reaching 18% in 1993.

During this period use of informal child care arrangements also increased, from 30% of children under 12 years in 1984 to 42% in 1990 then declined to 38% in 1993. This decline was evident for all age groups.

An important reason for using child care, both formal and informal, is to provide care for children while parents are at work, and much of the overall increase in the past decade is related to the increased participation of women in the labour force. Between 1984 and 1990 the labour force participation rate of married women increased from 43% to 53% and has remained relatively unchanged since. The slight decline in the use of child care since 1990 may be associated with the stabilisation of the labour force participation rate of married women.

TRENDS IN THE USE OF FORMAL AND INFORMAL CHILD CARE

1984
1987
1990
1993
Type of care used
%
%
%
%

Formal care only
8.7
9.1
9.3
11.0
Informal care only
26.1
31.7
33.9
29.4
Formal and informal care
3.7
6.6
8.4
8.3
Total formal and/or informal care
38.5
47.5
51.6
48.8
Neither formal nor informal care
61.5
52.6
48.4
51.2
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total children
2,897.4
2,887.9
3,003.7
3,085.9

Source: National Child Care Survey


Reasons for using child care
The use of child care is influenced both by the needs of parents (for work, leisure, shopping etc.) and by their perceptions of the benefits to the child of receiving certain types of non-parental care such as play groups, pre-school and care by grandparents.

In 1993 parental work-related reasons accounted for 43% of children receiving formal care and 46% of those receiving informal care. A further 44% of children receiving formal care (85% of those attending pre-school/kindergarten and 25% of those in long day care) did so mainly because their parents considered that it was beneficial for the child.

The proportion of children aged 3-5 years attending pre-school/kindergarten has remained relatively stable during the past decade at around 30-35% and does not appear to have been greatly influenced by work-related considerations. In 1993, 9% of children attending pre-school/kindergarten did so for parental work reasons compared to 63% in long day care, 78% in family day care and 91% in before or after school care programs.

Parents were more likely to make informal care arrangements for their children when they needed time for personal reasons such as shopping, sport, time alone, appointments etc. Such reasons accounted for 42% of children receiving informal care compared to 12% receiving formal care.

REASONS FOR USING CHILD CARE BY TYPE OF CARE USED, 1993

Main reason for using care

Work related
Personal
Beneficial for child
Other
Total children
Type of care
%
%
%
%
%
'000

Formal care
Pre-school/kindergarten
9.1
4.2
85.1
1.5*
100.0
236.9
Long day care
62.5
11.8
24.9
0.8*
100.0
146.7
Family day care
78.1
12.9
8.0
* *
100.0
80.7
Before/after school care
91.4
4.8*
2.3*
1.5*
100.0
85.8
Other formal care
21.0
48.7
28.5
1.8*
100.0
79.9
Total formal care
42.8
12.2
43.6
1.3
100.0
596.2(a)
Informal care
Siblings
53.1
40.0
2.3*
4.6
100.0
159.1
Other family
43.3
43.1
4.7
8.9
100.0
707.1
Non-family
51.2
37.8
6.2
4.8
100.0
389.1
Total informal care
46.2
42.0
4.7
7.0
100.0
1,166.2(a)

(a) Some children received more than one type of child care and therefore components do not add to totals.

Source: National Child Care Survey



Type of care used
The type of child care used is largely dependent on the age of the child; younger children are much more likely to receive formal care than school age children. In 1993, 8% of 0-2 year olds and 11% of 3-5 year olds received care in long day care centres which cater for children from birth to school age. Family day care offered in private homes by registered carers was used by similar proportions (about 4%) of 0-2 year olds and 3-5 year olds. 31% of 3-5 year olds attended pre-schools/kindergartens which have fixed attendance times and generally cater for children in the year prior to starting primary school. Excluding pre-school/kindergarten, roughly equal proportions (approximately 17%) of 0-2 year olds and 3-5 year olds received formal care. 6% of 6-11 year olds received formal care, most attending before or after school care programs.

Informal care was used slightly more by younger children and was generally provided by family members. 8% of 6-11 year olds, but very few younger children, were cared for by their brothers or sisters. 31% of 0-2 year olds, 26% of 3-5 year olds and 18% of 6-11 year olds were cared for by other family members such as grandparents, uncles, aunts etc.

TYPE OF CARE BY AGE OF CHILD, 1993

Age of child (years)

0-2
3-5
6-11
Type of care
%
%
%

Formal care
    Pre-school/kindergarten
0.2*
30.6
* *
    Long day care
7.9
10.7
0.2*
    Family day care
4.4
4.2
0.9
    Before/after school care
. .
1.5
4.8
    Other formal care
4.9
4.8
0.3
    Total formal care(a)
17.0
48.1
6.1
Informal care
    Siblings
1.2
2.8
8.2
    Other family
30.6
26.3
17.7
    Non-family
11.0
14.6
12.3
    Total informal care(a)
40.3
40.7
35.1
Total using care(a)
50.3
67.5
38.6
Total children
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Some children received more than one type of child care and therefore components do not add to totals.

Source: National Child Care Survey



Care by family members
The 1992 Survey of Families in Australia also found that family members, particularly grandparents, played an important role in the informal care of children under 12 years of age.

In 74% of both couple and one parent families using informal care arrangements, a family member was the main provider of informal care. Overall, grandparents accounted for more than half of all the main carers. Grandmothers were the main providers of informal child care in 44% of couple families and 34% of one parent families who used informal care. Other female relatives were also an important source of child care in both family types.

In 12% of one parent families the non-resident parent (usually the father) was the main provider of informal child care.

MAIN PROVIDERS OF INFORMAL CHILD CARE, 1992

Couple family
One parent family
Main provider of informal child care
%
%

Non-resident parent
0.5*
11.7
Grandparents
    Maternal grandmother
32.0
32.4(a)
    Paternal grandmother
12.1
1.8*(b)
    Total grandparents
55.7
43.0
Other female relative
13.7
16.4
Total family carers
74.0
73.8
Neighbour/friend of family
21.3
22.5
Other
4.7
3.8*
Families using informal care
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
Families using informal care
967.1
190.5

(a) Includes paternal grandmother in lone father families.
(b) Includes maternal grandmother in lone father families.

Source: Survey of Families in Australia




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