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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2004  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/06/2004   
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Contents >> Family and Community >> Formal child care

Services and Assistance: Formal Child Care

In 2002, 45% of children aged 0-4 years and 13% of children aged 5-11 years spent some time in formal child care.

Parents use child care for many reasons, such as to participate in employment and training, engage in community and personal activities, or provide additional developmental opportunities for their children through participation in preschool programs.(SEE ENDNOTE 1) While the number of children spending some time in care has remained similar over the past decade (1.5 million children aged 0-11 years in both 1993 and 2002), the types of care used and the age of children involved have both changed over this period. Parents have increasingly used formal child care over informal care and the proportion of younger children (0-4 years) spending some time in care has increased.

Formal child care is regulated child care away from the child's home. All formal child care services are supported by the Australian Government and, as a condition of funding and regulation, must provide developmental activities, as well as care services for children.(SEE ENDNOTE 1) Informal care is non-regulated and may be provided by friends and relatives, and other individuals such as paid baby-sitters.

Government funding on child care increased from $0.7 billion in 1993 to $1.6 billion in 2001-02.(SEE ENDNOTE 2) In 2001, the Australian government funded 500,000 places, more than double the 208,000 places in 1993.(SEE ENDNOTE 1)

This article focuses on the use of formal child care in 2002, and changes since the early 1990s, covering types of child care services used and parents' labour force participation. It will also examine requirements for additional care, including the type of care required and reasons additional care is needed.


CHILDREN AGED 0-11 YEARS USING FORMAL CARE - 2002
GRAPH - CHILDREN AGED 0-11 YEARS USING FORMAL CARE - 2002



FORMAL CHILD CARE

This article draws on data from the 1993 and 2002 Child Care Surveys (ABS cat. no. 4402.0). The article focuses on use of, and demand for, child care for children under 12 years of age. Data on costs of child care are the net costs paid by parents for a child to attend care (i.e. costs to parents after the Child Care Benefit has been deducted).

Child care refers to arrangements made for the care of children aged under 12 years. 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.

Formal care is regulated child care away from the child's home and includes attendance at the following types of formal care:

Long day care is regulated, centre-based care which is available to children between birth and school age for the full or part day.

Family day care is offered in private homes by registered carers, available for a full or part day to children of all ages.

Occasional care is regulated care which is available to children between birth and school age for short periods of time, for example to allow parents to shop, attend appointments, or to take brief breaks from parenting.

Preschool includes educational and developmental programs for children in the year (or two years) before they begin full-time primary education.

Before/after school care is available to school-aged children before and/or after school hours.

Other formal care is formal care other than long day care, family day care, occasional care, preschool, and before and/or after school care.

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).


CHILDREN AGED 0-11 YEARS USING FORMAL CARE, BY LABOUR FORCE STATUS OF PARENTS - 2002

Couple families
One-parent families


Age of children
Both parents employed
One parent employed
Neither parent employed
All couple families(a)
Parent employed
Parent not employed
All one-parent families
Total
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

0-4 years
57.3
32.2
33.7
43.3
75.4
40.5
50.7
44.5
5-11 years
16.0
6.8
4.1
11.8
26.0
7.1
15.7
12.6
All children aged 0-11 years using formal care
30.4
19.4
17.1
25.0
37.8
20.1
27.2
25.2
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

0-4 years
253.8
163.3
27.4
452.9
43.3
56.2
99.5
552.4
5-11 years
131.0
35.3
4.2
172.7
47.0
15.3
62.3
235.0
All children aged 0-11 years using formal care
384.7
198.6
31.6
625.6
90.3
71.5
161.8
787.4

(a) Includes an estimate where one parent was out of scope.
Source: ABS 2002 Child Care Survey.

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%).

...FAMILY TYPE

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.

...WORKING PARENTS

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.


CHILD CARE BENEFIT
  • The Child Care Benefit (CCB), introduced from 1 July 2000, is an Australian Government funded payment for families who use approved and registered child care.
  • The Australian Government has provided funding for child care since the 1970s. The CCB replaced the Child Care Assistance and the Child Care Rebate subsidies with a more generous payment which is simpler to calculate and administer.
  • In June 2002, the CCB was claimed by parents on behalf of 570,500 children attending formal care - 48,100 being paid directly to parents and the rest being paid to the provider of care.
  • Around 189,400 parents did not claim the benefit for formal care - the two main reasons given were lack of awareness and the carer or centre not being eligible.
MAXIMUM BENEFIT PER CHILD(a) - 2002

Per week
Per hour
Number of children
$
$

1
133.00
2.66
2
278.00
2.78
3
433.91
2.89

(a) The minimum rate was $0.45/hr per child.
Source: Department of Family and Community Services, A guide to Commonwealth Government payments, 1 July - 19 September 2002.

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) - 2002

0-4 years
5-11 years
Total
‘000
‘000
‘000

Receiving some formal care
552.4
235.0
787.4
    Wanting more formal care
50.0
14.8
64.8
Not using any formal care
689.8
1,622.8
2,312.6
    Wanting some formal care
56.3
53.2
109.5
Total number of children whose parents want to use more formal care
106.4
68.0
174.5
Total number of children
1,242.2
1,857.8
3,100.0

(a) Children whose parents wanted to use (more) formal care in the month before interview.
Source: ABS 2002 Child Care Survey.
In 2002, there were 109,600 children who were not receiving any formal child care and whose parents wanted to use some formal care, and an additional 64,800 children who were already receiving some formal care and whose parents wanted to use more care. The numbers of children in these situations have decreased since 1993, from 188,600 and 125,400 children respectively.


PREFERENCE FOR USING MORE FORMAL CARE FOR CHILDREN AGED 0-11 YEARS(a)
GRAPH - 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.

GROWTH OF THE CHILD CARE INDUSTRY

Child care services provide care and developmental activities for children. The Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) supports the provision of formal child care services through Child Care Support.

For each service, child care places are the total number of children who could use the service at any one time during the hours of operation.

Between 1993 to 2001 the number of child care services doubled (from 5,000 to 10,100) while the total number of Australian Government-supported child care places increased by 140% (from 208,000 to 500,000). The number of child care places is lower than the number of children using child care services since some children attend part-time.


GROWTH IN THE NUMBER OF CHILD CARE SERVICES AND PLACES

1993
2001
no.
no.

Services
5,029
10,050
Places
207,973
500,034

Source: AIHW, Australia's Welfare, 2003.

ENDNOTES

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.


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