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Family Services: Child care
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
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
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
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
(b) Includes maternal grandmother in lone father families.
Source: Survey of Families in Australia