Access to Childcare in Great Britain

Date Posted: Monday 5th July 2021

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Childcare is the single most important driver of the gender pay and labour market participation gap. The current childcare system in the UK is expensive and formal provision is patchy.

Research by the Local Data Project run by Women’s Budget Group shows that the availability and affordability crisis in childcare is being exacerbated by the pandemic and subsequent childcare closures.

Reduced access to childcare
Ofsted data shows that in the six months up to March 2021, there were 14,385 fewer childcare places and 3,292 fewer providers in England. This represents a 4.4% net loss of childcare providers and 1.1% net loss of childcare places. This decrease is being largely driven by childminders leaving the market.

Prior to the pandemic, childcare provision was already scarce for some groups of children. According to data from Coram Family and Childcare, for disabled children in England, only 25% of local authorities reported having sufficient childcare in 2020.

Affordability of childcare
Women’s Budget Group analysis shows that families are expected to spend a significant proportion of their income on childcare costs with evidence suggesting that mothers’ jobs and earning potential are more likely to be sacrificed when childcare is unaffordable.

For under 2s in Great Britain, full-time childcare costs absorb half (49%) of women’s median earnings while part- time childcare takes up nearly a third (63%) of women’s salaries.  

State support in the form of free-entitlement hours only starts for most children once they reach three. But even with childcare state support, childcare for 3- and 4-year-olds is still between a fifth and a quarter of women’s salaries with women spending on average 24% of their earnings on part-time childcare.

Childcare costs continue to rise faster than wages, with childcare fees having increased 4% in 2020, according to data from Coram Family and Childcare.

Access the full briefing here