The childcare sector has been one of the hardest-hit industries since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Not only did they have to close their doors due to safety and health concerns, but childcare providers were also usually very low-paid. The pandemic made it even harder for them to survive financially because of reduced capacity.
Parents suffered the most because they were forced to miss, leave, or show up late to work due to their increased childcare responsibilities. In early 2021, nearly 700,000 parents, 50% being women, had to stop working altogether to care for their children. In the last three months of 2021, fewer than 6% of jobs were held by parents of children aged 5-12.
Without available or cost-efficient childcare, parents cannot be present at work, and employers are left with a less viable job market and less work getting done. Workers are distracted by having to juggle their increased home life responsibilities with those at their workplace. And, most of the time, their work suffers.
Employers can support their workers by providing lower-cost, accessible childcare that meets their needs. They can also take advantage of solutions that support their workers' and their kids' mental and physical health. They can show that they are empathetic to the changing landscape that the pandemic has cornered parents into. They can continue to recognize that the more they contribute to their workers' childcare costs and concerns, the less distracted parents are from their work responsibilities and the more productive they can be.
Childcare has gotten so much more expensive two years into the pandemic because higher demand and less supply equals higher costs. Nationally, 72% of families are paying more for childcare. In fact, just one year into the pandemic, childcare costs have nearly doubled on a weekly basis.
The rising costs of childcare have lost at least one million women from the workforce throughout the pandemic. A third of their income is going towards childcare, and it makes it extremely difficult for them to remain active in the workforce. The women who are staying in the workforce feel guilty about their childcare challenges because they naturally feel distracted from their work. The uncertainty of whether they can afford childcare is getting worse and driving a lot of working moms to gain anxiety over their job security, performance, and advancement.
Not only that, workers who have been forced back into the office, nearly half say their childcare limitations are negatively impacting their work. These parents need full-day coverage, which is much more expensive than a half-day or even partial coverage. Therefore, parents have to leave their jobs to care for their children or lose vacation and sick leave as a result of having to cover their children’s care.
Most parents are also cutting their hours to care for their children instead of paying high costs. 8.6% have actually gotten laid off or fired as a result of taking time away from work due to childcare challenges.
Childcare centers nationwide are closing down because they cannot operate at full capacity. They suffer from worker shortages because of lower wages and a lack of benefits. Workers are scrambling to find childcare providers or not finding childcare outside of their family and friends.
States are struggling to maintain state-approved childcare facilities. There is inconsistency in spending and support from the states. Some states are spending $39 billion on childcare, while others are not. All state funding is going to state-approved childcare facilities. Most childcare facilities are not state-approved centers. Most childcare facilities are in homes, and 75.5% of childcare is non-paid, offered by either relatives or family friends. Non-traditional childcare is highly inconsistent because they do not receive support from the government, as they haven’t been certified by the state. Therefore, these options are harder to maintain and usually the first to close down.
Due to the fragility, costs, and unpredictability of childcare, workers’ schedules have gotten equally unpredictable. Burnout is on the rise, and job performance is naturally slipping.
Businesses can show a sense of empathy for their workers if they can offer support that tackles their burnout, mental and physical stress, and offers family support.
Firstly, employers can offer working parents more parental leave and flexible work schedules, so they have more availability to manage their work and their children from home, or possibly in a hybrid situation.
Secondly, employers can offer holistic support and solutions to working parents that offer additional support to them and their children’s health, well-being, and care. The more workers feel supported in and outside of work, the more they will stay loyal to their employers, and the more they will feel a boost in their well-being, positively impacting their work and productivity.
This is especially relevant for small business owners who are currently struggling to attract and retain workers. Small businesses are also less likely to hire full-time workers, and without being full-time, most parents are likely not eligible for solutions that help them manage their childcare.
Small business owners can work with Empleo to offer holistic support, no matter a parent’s working arrangements. Empleo’s marketplace helps parents address a number of issues related to their family’s health, care, and well-being. From the onset of family planning, our marketplace offers services that provide counseling and general support for pregnant women. We also include services that support general childcare, mental health, and counseling for parents and their children. For small businesses, investing in Empleo can show that they empathize and have compassion for their workers.
Business owners need help fixing a broken system of childcare. They cannot open up facilities, lobby for state and federal funding, and create legislation that subsidizes childcare for all. But their support goes a long way. Empleo can show that small business owners listen to their workers’ needs, providing access to support their workers.
After thirteen years of working in the nonprofit sector and working with frontline workers, I’ve noticed that when childcare is lacking and inaccessible, workers cannot reach their full potential, which in turn, limits businesses’ growth. Empleo works with small business owners within their budgets to provide their workers with the care that supports them along their professional and personal paths. With increased awareness and empathy, small businesses can ensure they keep the best talent that supports them alongside their growth.