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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2002  
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Contents >> Income and Welfare >> Trends in child care

TRENDS IN CHILD CARE

INTRODUCTION

This article summarises the results of the ABS Child Care Survey, a household survey conducted most recently in 1999.

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. 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 creches 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 form of formal and/or informal child care in the week prior to interview. While the proportion of children using child care increased markedly from 38% in 1984 to 52% in 1990, it fluctuated around 50% in subsequent surveys (1993, 1996 and 1999).

Between 1984 and 1999 the proportion of children receiving formal care doubled (12% to 24%) (table 7.11). 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 care. For over half of children in care in 1999, this was the only form of child care arrangement used.

7.11 CHILD CARE ARRANGEMENTS - 1984 to 1999

Type of care used
1984
1987
1990
1993
1996
1999

Formal care only
%
8.7
9.1
9.3
11.0
12.0
14.0
Informal care only
%
26.1
31.7
33.9
29.4
28.3
27.7
Formal and informal care
%
3.7
6.6
8.4
8.3
8.1
9.5
Total formal and/or informal care -
%
38.5
47.4
51.6
48.8
48.4
51.2
- Total formal care
%
12.4
15.7
17.7
19.3
20.1
23.5
- Total informal care
%
29.8
38.3
42.3
37.8
36.4
37.2
Neither formal nor informal care
%
61.5
52.5
48.4
51.2
51.6
48.8
Total(a)
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Total children
'000
2,897.4
2,887.9
3,003.7
3,085.9
3,102.8
3,122.9

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

Source: Child Care, Australia (4402.0).

Type of care

The pattern of formal child care varies considerably with age. Among very young children aged under 1 year, 9% received some type of formal care in 1999 (table 7.12). This increased rapidly from age 1 (24%) to age 4 (73%). Long day care was the most common type of care for children under 4 years, attended by 5% of children under 1 and increasing to 26% of 3 year olds. Preschool was the major type of care received by 4 year olds, with 49% of children in this age group attending, followed by long day care (22%). Children aged 5-11 years were less likely to receive formal care (12%) than younger children. Those who did receive formal care were most commonly attending before and after school care programs (8% of this age group).

7.12 TYPE OF CARE BY AGE OF CHILD, 1999

Age of child
Type of care
Units
Under 1
1
2
3
4
5-11
Total

Formal care
Long day care
%
4.5
14.9
21.3
25.9
21.7
0.7
7.7
Family day care
%
1.9
5.3
7.7
8.4
5.0
0.8
2.8
Occasional care
%
2.2
3.1
4.1
3.8
3.0
0.1
1.4
Preschool
%
-
. .
. .
22.1
49.2
2.5
7.4
Before and after school care
%
-
-
. .
. .
0.6
8.2
4.9
Other formal care
%
* 0.4
* 0.8
2.9
2.6
2.7
0.3
0.9
Total formal care(a)
%
8.5
23.5
34.8
58.0
73.2
12.1
23.5
Total informal care(a)
%
37.3
45.7
46.1
43.2
43.1
33.2
37.2
Total children receiving care(a)
%
42.4
59.9
66.3
76.0
83.0
41.2
51.2
Total children
'000
251.8
248.4
254.9
256.7
262.4
1,848.8
3,122.9

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

Source: Child Care, Australia, 1999 (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 per child (graph 7.13). The majority of these families (79%) used fewer 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). Less money was spent on before- and after-school care, occasional care and preschool, the median cost being $17, $15 and $12 per week respectively.




Far less was spent on informal care, with the vast majority of children (89%) incurring no cost. This reflects the fact that relatives are the main providers of informal care.


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 with at least one parent employed, used one or more arrangements based on these provisions to help them care for children (table 7.14).

The most frequently used arrangements were flexible hours (33%) and permanent part-time work (23%), both of which have increased slightly since 1993.

7.14 WORK ARRANGEMENTS USED BY EITHER PARENT TO CARE FOR CHILDREN

Work arrangements
1993
1999

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

(a) Components do not add to total as parents could use more than one type of work arrangement.

Source: Child Care, Australia, 1999 (4402.0).


Employed mothers were more likely to make use of family friendly work arrangements than employed fathers. In the 925,500 families with employed mothers in 1999, 68% of mothers made use of family friendly work arrangements. In the 1,286,700 families with employed fathers, 27% of fathers made use of such arrangements. The lower proportion of fathers using family friendly work arrangements largely reflects the higher proportion of employed fathers than of employed mothers with children under 12 years whose partner stays home to care for the children.

Flexible working hours (37%) were the most frequently used arrangement used by employed mothers, followed by permanent part-time work (34%) and working at home (15%). For fathers, the most frequently used arrangements were flexible working hours (18%), working at home (7%) and shiftwork (5%) (graph 7.15).





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