Reassessing the Role of Child Care Costs in the Work and Care Decisions of Australian Families
This paper reassesses how the costs associated with child care influence Australian families’ decisions about their work and child care arrangements. Using data from the Negotiating the Life Course Survey, we suggest that the cost of care may not be an important barrier to labour market participation. Non-employed mothers do not cite child care as the barrier preventing them from working and many two-earner families appear to be able to adjust their schedules so as to avoid paying child care costs at all. Instead, factors such as the cost structures associated with formal, informal and parental care; attitudes regarding work and child rearing; and the work arrangements of working couples to be more important in the labour-supply decision. In addition, the data suggests there are important differences in the cost structure of different types of care. While costs in formal care appear to be fixed, informal and parental care has a larger variable cost component. Results indicate that the relative importance of fixed costs influence the decision about which type of child care arrangement is utilised.
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