The rising cost of childcare puts an unfair burden on many Australian families. With childcare costs increasing faster than the rate of inflation, parents are having to ask whether they can actually afford to go to work.
A 2019 Productivity Commission report found that 37% of non-working parents weren’t working because they couldn’t find affordable care.
Although the government offers a Child Care Subsidy, it does not regulate the costs of child care. That means that costs can fluctuate depending on the type of care service and the state or territory where you live.
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Childcare costs by location
According to the Productivity Commission report, the median weekly cost of full-time care in 2018 was $480, or $400 for family day care. That was an increase of 2.8% from the year before—and the rate of inflation was only 1.8%.
Here are the average weekly costs of full-time childcare in 2018 by state and territory, based on the report. Note that figures do not take into account any child care subsidies available at the time.
Weekly cost of childcare in Australia
Correct at the time of writing (May 2019)
||Average cost per week (2018)
Residents of the ACT were the worst off, with an average of $560 per week, while Queenslanders pay the least at $417 per week. The data also showed that those in the lower incomes were disproportionately affected, with $1 of every $12 in disposable income going towards childcare fees.
Childcare costs by type of care
Parents are desperately in need of child care; in fact, nearly one in six parents with kids younger than school age said they could use more weekly child care hours. Of those, one-third needed the extra hours because of work.
The type of childcare services can also have an impact on cost. According to the Early Childhood and Child Care in Summary, published by the Department of Education and Training, certain kinds of childcare are more expensive than others. Occasional care is the most costly, and outside school hours care tends to be the least. The average hourly fee for all service types was $9.25.
These are the most recent available figures before subsidies, from the quarter to June 2018.
Cost of childcare services
Correct at the time of writing (May 2019)
|Child Care Service Type
||Average hourly fee
|Long day care
|Family day care and in-home Care
|Outside school hours care
The impact of childcare subsidies
However, there is a bright spot in this cloud—the data was collected prior to the implementation of the current Child Care Subsidy, which took effect on 1 July 2018 and replaced the previous Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate entitlements. The government has since put $9.2 billion into early childhood education and care, primarily in the form of subsidies.
Many parents may now be eligible for this means-tested subsidy, which helps with the cost of childcare fees. To estimate how much your family may be eligible for, use the government’s online Payment and Service Finder.
Subsidies can make a significant difference to making childcare affordable and practical for Australian families. In its most recent Childhood Education and Care survey in 2017, the ABS found that 49.3% of children aged 0 to 12 years usually attended some form of formal or informal care.
It also found that children attended care for a mean of 16 hours per week. The mean cost after the subsidies available at the time was $110.50 per week. That was up from $74.30 per week in 2011, with costs adjusted for inflation.
The Early Childhood and Child Care In Summary report shows that the out-of-pocket costs for childcare before subsidies depended on the family’s income, among other factors:
- 29.1% of weekly disposable income for families with a gross income of $35,000 per year
- 9.5% of weekly disposable income for families with a gross income of $215,000 per year
After subsidies were taken into account, out-of-pocket costs were as follows:
- 8% of weekly disposable income for families with a gross income of $35,000 per year
- 4.7% of weekly disposable income for families with a gross income of $215,000 per year
Childcare can be complicated for many families, because it’s not always easy to quantify its cost. You’ll also have to take into account the distance you travel to get to the child care, both in terms of what it costs to get there and the time it takes. For that reason, it’s often ideal to find a childcare centre in your local area.
Childcare Comparison can help you find local childcare centres based on your needs and arrange a convenient time for you to visit. Use the form below to get started today.