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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2001  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/06/2001   
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Contents >> Family >> Family Services: Child care arrangements

Family Services: Child Care Arrangements

Throughout the 1990s about half of children aged under 12 years received some form of child care, mainly because of their parents' work-related activities.

To raise children requires a significant amount of time and care over many years. Parents are the main providers of this care throughout the child’s life. However, children also spend a good deal of time at school and often participate in sporting and community activities. Through these activities they are in the care of school teachers and other adults.

In addition to these types of care, many children are also in receipt of some type of formal or informal care. For working parents in particular, obtaining adequate and affordable child care is a primary concern. In the 1980s, the need for work-related child care increased considerably, commensurate with the increasing labour force participation of women. In 1990, Australia ratified the International Labour Organisation Convention 156 on workers with family responsibilities,1 and since then government expenditure on child care has quadrupled.

Along with increased use of child care for work-related reasons, the 1990s saw increases in the use of child care for other purposes. Parents' personal reasons are being cited more often as the main reason for using child care. This is particularly so for informal care, the most commonly used type of care.


Formal and informal child care
Data presented in this article are from the ABS Child Care Survey which has been conducted periodically throughout Australia since 1969. The latest survey, conducted as a supplement to the June 1999 ABS Monthly Population Survey, continues the triennial series established in 1984.

Child care refers to arrangements made for the care of children under 12 years of age. This does not include parental care or those occasions when the child is under someone else's care for other reasons, such as school or sporting activities. The various types of care used can be grouped into two main categories, formal care and informal care.

Formal care is regulated child care away from the child's home, including: preschool or kindergarten; long day care; family day care; before and after school care; and other arrangements such as crèches in shopping centres.

Informal care is non-regulated child 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 child care
In 1999, just over half of all children aged under 12 years (1.6 million) received some type of formal and/or informal child care. While the proportion of children receiving child care has increased markedly since 1984 (38%), it has fluctuated around 50%
since 1990.

Between 1984 and 1999, the proportion of children receiving formal care doubled (12% to 24%). Although the increase was greatest among 0-2 year olds (8% to 22%) it occurred across all age groups. For children aged under 5 years, growth in the number of children attending long day care centres was the main contributor to this increase (from 99,400 in 1990 to 225,900 in 1999). For children aged 5-11 years, the number attending before and after school care trebled (from 44,000 in 1990 to 152,500 in 1999). This was the main contributor to the growth in formal care for this age group.

The proportion of children receiving informal care increased from 30% in 1984 to 37% in 1999 and this remains the most commonly used form of child care. For 28% of children in 1999, this was the only form of child care arrangement used.

FORMAL AND INFORMAL CHILD CARE

1984
1999

Type of care used
%
%
    Formal care only
8.6
14.0
    Informal care only
25.6
27.7
    Formal and informal care
3.7
9.5
    Total formal and/or informal care
37.9
51.2
    Total formal care
12.4
23.5
    Total informal care
29.9
37.2
Neither formal nor informal(a)
61.5
48.8
Total children
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
Total children
2,897.4
3,122.9

(a) Parental or other care, such as school or sporting activities, whose purpose is not primarily child care.

Source: ABS Child Care Arrangements, Australia, 1984 (cat. no. 4402.0); Child Care, Australia, 1999 (cat. no. 4402.0).


Type of care
The pattern of formal child care varies considerably with age. Among children aged 0-2 years, 22% received some type of formal care in 1999, with more than half of these attending long day care centres. In contrast, 66% of 3-4 year olds received some type of formal care. Preschool was the major type of care received, with 36% of children in this age group attending, followed by long day care (24%). Children aged 5-11 years were less likely to receive formal care (12%) than younger children, and were most commonly attending before and after school care programs (8% of this age group).

TYPE OF CHILD CARE, 1999

Source: Child Care, Australia, 1999 (cat. no. 4402.0).


The use of informal care arrangements varies less with age than formal care. In 1999, of children aged under 5 years, 43% received informal care, compared with 33% of children aged 5-11 years. Grandparents were the main providers of informal care (caring for 21% of children and providing more than half of all informal care in 1999). Grandparents were more likely to be the providers of informal care for very young children, providing nearly three quarters of informal care to children aged 0-2 years, compared with just under half of all informal care for children
aged 5-11 years.

TYPE OF CHILD CARE BY AGE OF CHILD, 1999

Age of child (years)

0-2
3-4
5-11
Total
Type of care
%
%
%
%

Formal care
    Before and after school care
. .
0.3
8.2
4.9
    Long day care
13.6
23.8
0.7
7.7
    Family day care
5.0
6.7
0.8
2.8
    Occasional care
3.2
3.4
*0.1
1.4
    Preschool
. .
35.8
2.5
7.4
    Other formal care
1.4
2.6
0.3
0.9
    Total formal care(a)
22.3
65.7
12.1
23.5
Informal care
    Grandparent
31.0
27.5
15.5
21.2
    Brother/sister
1.1
*0.8
3.3
2.4
    Other relative
6.8
8.4
6.9
7.1
    Other person
6.8
10.3
10.2
9.4
    Total informal care(a)
43.0
43.2
33.2
37.2
Total children receiving care(a)
56.2
79.5
41.2
51.2

'000
'000
'000
'000
Total children
755.1
519.1
1,848.8
3,122.9

(a) Children could receive more than one type of care and therefore components do not add to total.

Source: Child Care, Australia, 1999 (cat. no. 4402.0).


Reasons for using child care
The main reasons for using child care vary with the type of care provided, the age of the child and the labour force status of parents. In 1999, the main reason most commonly given for using both formal and informal care (46% and 45% respectively) was work-related. The benefit to the child was given as the next most common main reason reported for children attending formal care (36%). In particular, this reflects the high proportion of children attending preschool for this reason (71%). In aggregate, personal reasons such as study or training not related to work, shopping, entertainment, social or sporting activities and giving parents a break, were the second most commonly reported main reason for children receiving informal care.

The parents of older children were more likely to use child care for work-related reasons than those of younger children. In 1999, work-related reasons were reported by parents of children aged 5-11 years as the most common main reason for using both formal and informal care (67% and 49% respectively). In contrast, younger children in formal care were more likely than older children to be receiving care for their own benefit (44% of 0-4 year olds compared with 18% of 5-11 year olds), while for children aged 0-4 years receiving informal care, parents' personal reasons were the most common main reason for receiving care (49%).

Over the 15 years from 1984 to 1999, work-related reasons for using child care have increased, consistent with the increased labour force participation of women over this period (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Work: national summary tables). In 1984, the majority of children attending formal care did so for the benefit of the child (62%), with work-related reasons given as the main reason for 26% of children. In 1999, the proportions were 36% and 46% respectively. This is reflected in the growth in the number of children attending formal care other than preschool, particularly long day care centres. Over this period, of those receiving formal care, the proportion of children attending preschool declined from 57% to 32%. However, the number of children attending preschool, which is primarily used for the benefit of the child, has changed little over this time (206,400 children in 1984 compared with 231,600 in 1999). While receipt of formal care for parents' personal reasons remains proportionally low, the number of children involved has trebled
since 1984.

MAIN REASON FOR USING CHILD CARE

1984
1999


Formal care
Informal care
Formal care
Informal care

Main reason for using care
%
%
%
%
Work-related
25.8
40.1
46.2
44.9
Personal
7.9
38.3
11.7
42.3
Beneficial for child
62.4
6.0
35.9
3.5
Other
4.0
15.5
6.29.3
Total children receiving care
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
'000
Total children receiving care
358.9
864.9
733.2
1,162.1

Source: Child Care Arrangements, Australia, 1984 (cat. no. 4402.0); Child Care, Australia, 1999 (cat. no. 4402.0).


Hours of care
The amount of child care that children receive varies considerably with the type of care. In 1999, just under half (49%) of all children attending care, did so for less than ten hours per week. Children attending long day care centres and family day care were more likely to attend for 20 or more hours per week (36% and 33% respectively) than children receiving other forms of care.

Receipt of formal care varies with family income. Children in higher income families were more likely to attend formal care than other children and, among children attending formal care were more likely to attend for 20 hours or more per week. This reflects the higher proportion of these families with both parents employed. One third of children in families with an income of $1,400 or more per week attended formal care, compared with 26% of those with $800-$1,399 per week and 21% of those with less than $800 per week. Of those children receiving formal care, the proportions, across these weekly income ranges, receiving 20 hours or more per week were 26%, 20% and 17% respectively. Hours spent in informal care varied little with family income.

WEEKLY HOURS OF CHILD CARE, 1999

Hours

Less than 10
10-19
20 or more
Total children
Type of care used
%
%
%
%
'000

Formal care
    Before and after school care program
79.0
16.7
4.3
100.0
154.1
    Long day care centre
29.7
33.9
36.4
100.0
242.0
    Family day care
38.0
29.2
32.8
100.0
87.1
    Occasional care
89.0
10.0
*1.0
100.0
42.9
    Preschool
43.0
52.2
4.8
100.0
231.6
    Other formal care
81.0
14.6
4.4
100.0
29.4
    Total formal care(a)(b)
46.1
33.2
20.7
100.0
733.2
    Total informal care(b)
61.9
18.2
19.9
100.0
1,162.1
Total children receiving care(a)(b)
48.5
25.4
26.1
100.0
1,599.3

(a) Children could receive more than one type of care and therefore components do not add to total.
(b) Where a child attended more than one type of care, the hours have been added together.

Source: Child Care, Australia, 1999 (cat. no. 4402.0).


Cost of child care to parents
The cost of child care varies considerably according to type of care and hours used. In 1999, the median weekly cost to families using formal child care was $22. The majority of these families (79%) used less than 20 hours of care per week.

Children attending long day care centres incurred the highest median cost ($41 per week) followed by family day care ($26), reflecting the longer median hours of attendance at these types of care (16 hours and 14 hours respectively). Before and after school care, occasional care and preschool were less expensive, with the median cost being $17, $15 and $12 per week respectively.

Informal care was far less expensive with the vast majority of children (89%) incurring no cost. This reflects the fact that relatives are the main providers of informal care.

COST AND HOURS OF FORMAL CHILD CARE, 1999

Source: Child Care, Australia, 1999 (cat. no. 4402.0).


Balancing work and family
Increasingly, employers acknowledge the need for workers to balance work and family responsibilities and have introduced a range of provisions over the years to help families do this. These provisions include flexible working hours, permanent part-time work, home-based work and job sharing. In 1999, over half (53%) of families with children aged under 12 years, and at least one parent employed, used one or more arrangements based on these provisions to help them care for children.

The most frequently used arrangements were flexible hours (33%) and permanent part-time work (23%) which have both increased slightly since 1993. Employed mothers were more likely to make use of work arrangements (68%) than employed
fathers (27%).

WORK ARRANGEMENTS USED BY EITHER PARENT TO CARE FOR CHILDREN

1993
1999

Work arrangements
%
%
    Flexible hours
27.4
32.5
    Permanent part-time work
17.7
23.0
    Shiftwork
7.4
9.3
    Work at home
14.4
13.5
    Job sharing
2.0
2.7
    Other
1.5
3.1
Total families where either parent used work arrangements(a)
50.5
52.9
Total families where neither parent used work arrangements
49.5
47.1
Total families with at least one parent employed
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
Total families with at least one parent employed
1,407.6
1,462.6

(a) Parents could use more than one type of work arrangement and therefore components do not add to total.

Source: Child Care, Australia, 1999 (cat. no. 4402.0).


Government spending on child care
Over the last decade, the number of Commonwealth Government funded child care places increased from 122,600 in 1990,2 to 422,100 in 1999.3

Commonwealth government spending increased in line with this from $291 million in 1990-91 to $1,011 million in 1997-98.4 This was largely due to an increase in Childcare Assistance to providers, particularly long day care centres ($105 million in 1990-91 compared with $481 million in 1997-98). Funding for Childcare Assistance to providers of family day care also increased over this period from $51 million to $126 million. The Childcare Rebate, introduced in the mid 1990s and available to families to subsidise work-related child care costs, accounted for a further $121 million in 1997-98.5

Comparable figures for 1998-99 are not available due to a change in the government portfolio responsible for child care. However, the Commonwealth provided an estimated $1 billion for child care services in that year.6 This included an estimated $650 million on Childcare Assistance and $117 million on Childcare Rebate payments. In 1999-2000, $1.3 billion was spent on child care services.7

COMMONWEALTH EXPENDITURE(a) ON CHILDREN'S SERVICES

(a) In constant 1996-97 prices.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia's Welfare 1999: Services and Assistance.


Endnotes
1 International Labour Organisation 1996, International Labour Conventions and Recommendations 1919-1995, International Labour Organisation, Geneva.

2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1997, Australia's Welfare 1997: Services and Assistance, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.

3 Department of Family and Community Services 2000, Annual Report 1999-2000, Canberra.

4 Data in this paragraph is in constant 1996-97 prices. This adjustment allows for comparison over time, excluding the effect of inflation.

5 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 1999, Australia's Welfare 1999: Services and Assistance, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.

6 Department of Family and Community Services 1999, Annual Report 1998-99, Canberra.

7 Department of Family and Community Services 1999, Annual Report 1999-2000, Canberra.


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