“Getting women back to work is about pulling people who weren’t in the labour force into the labour force, and then encouraging people to work longer hours … you can actually find dollars in the economy that way which you didn’t know you had.
“The economic dividend can be quite powerful,” she said.
The Business Council of Australia also praised the measure at a time when the business advocacy group had been agitating for the federal government to take action to address a labour shortage crippling businesses.
“We welcome action to boost women’s workforce participation, which is good for families, good for businesses and will help manage chronic labour shortages across the economy,” BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said, adding the budget “puts NSW at the front of the pack when it comes to attracting the new investment needed to create new jobs.”
Measures designed to encourage working mothers and parents back into the workforce include grants to help expand or build new centres in so-called “childcare deserts”, as well as cash incentives for centres that offer more affordable rates for parents facing challenges sending kids to childcare, such as poorer parents, single mothers and regional families.
The changes could save families up to $3900 a year per child while prompting another 95,000 women to enter the workforce or take on more hours, according to government estimates.
Blaxland parents Chris and Karen Mousley said they were desperate to see the supply of childcare centres increase given the pair, living at the base of the Blue Mountains in NSW, were forced to take an hour-long trip to access their 2½-year-old son’s pre-school. Karen was just 12 weeks pregnant when she put her son Harry on the waiting list for a pre-school, such was demand in the area.
The pair said there was “a fine line” in the viability of sending their son to childcare – which sets the family back $1400 a month – or Karen working her full-time job as a dispute resolution expert with a CBD-based insurance company.
The cost of childcare makes the family only $150 a week better off if Karen works full-time, versus three days a week. That doesn’t count the cost of the commute from Blaxland to Penrith to reach the childcare centre.
Karen said the budget commitments to fund a year of pre-kindergarten while also boosting the number of childcare centres and places was “transformational”.
“It’s a plan targeted to families who need the most support,” she said.