Child care issues greatly affect families in the low-income bracket. This means families earning less than 200% of poverty. Parents in this category usually find themselves less able to lead productive lives in relation to retaining employment. Disruptions in work schedules, including but not limited to absenteeism occur when parents are unable to provide adequate child care or are unable to access child care programs.
With the rising cost of living, providing child care remains an uphill task for the low income families. Government interventions in providing affordable child care programs provide a relief for the working families in the low-income bracket. This enables the families secure their current jobs since high absenteeism and work related interruptions usually leads to loss of jobs and consequently loss of income and a resultant entrapment in poverty.
Relationship between Child Care Assistance and Employment
Cost of child care to low-income families
The greatly affected parent in child care issues is the mother. In event that the mother in the low-income bracket happens to be the head of the household the issues become more compounded.
However when the low-income mother gets access to child care support programs she is the more likely to get employed, retain employment, be self-reliant and consequently lead a better quality life. There is increased incidence of working single low-income mothers in recent years. With over 60 % of poverty stricken families with children working, the need for affordable child care programs is a necessity. Approximately 64% of the single, low-income mothers with children under six year are employed (Matthews, 2006. p.1).
In the low-income bracket families spend 25% to 50% of their income on child care. Child care cost is not static but varies with the quality, type and certainly the particular country. In the U.S child care for a four year old child is in the range between $3,016 to $9,628 while that of an infant ranges from $3,803 to $13,480 in a year.
This is above the affordability of the low-income single mother. In particular communities in the U.S the low-income families without access to child care programs can barely afford over 10% of the subsidized child care provided in their community (Matthews, 2006. p.2). In some counties the cost of child care visa vie the annual income of a single parent household is 56% (Contra Costa Child Care Council, 2003. p.1).
The impact of the lack of reliable child care on employers cannot be neglected. Work related interruptions such as employee absenteeism have a direct negative impact on the organizations that employ the affected single parents. In 1998 these interruptions cost the U.S employers about $3 billion in lost revenue.
Employee absenteeism as a result of child care issues results to an average of two days of work lost per year. Whereas about 65% of employees report late or leave early resulting to lost man-hours as a result of child care issues. In some states 20% of parents have had problems retaining employment, or securing employment as a result of child care problems, while about 37% have lost man-hours due to the same problem (Matthews, 2006. p.2).
It is evident that a vast majority of the low-income families are engaged in jobs that do not offer paid leave or flexible work hours. This compounds the problem when the single parent has to lose their pay to attend to child care issues. This means that the costs, financial and otherwise, of child care are an impediment to women empowerment bearing in mind that they are the most likely to be directly affected by loss of income due to child care issues (Matthews, 2006. p.2).
Child Care and Women Employment
Provision of child care enables the single parent to get employment or retain current employment. If single heads of households received full support for child care, it would increase by 15% the proportion of working women and by 14% of the proportion of working low-income women earning approximately 185% of the poverty level.
Access to child care support programs has a direct relationship to access to employment including employment retention to single heads of households. Single mothers with young children are 40% more likely to retain employment in the event that they get access to child care programs. The chance of employment in the low-income single mothers’ category increases by approximately 15% in the event that they receive child care support (Matthews, 2006. p.3).
Need for Child Care
More often that not, single heads of households need to work away from home thus creating the need for child care from outside the family set-up. In the view of this access to child care centers becomes a necessity. Child care centers fall into two basic categories namely the licensed and the non-licensed.
Licensing child care centers ensures that minimum acceptable standards for child care are met and consequently maintained. However the child care provided from the child’s home exempt from the licensing requirements although it is deemed as legal. The unlicensed child care service providers operate in violation of the law (Oklahoma Child Care, 2005. p.6).
In states like Oklahoma for instance, 58.7% of children below thirteen years live in households headed by a single parent. In the view of this a huge number of these children (above 300,000) need child care on a daily basis. Due to the lack of adequate and affordable licensed child care facilities families rely on other service providers other than the licensed child care centers. These other service providers include family members, neighbors and the unlicensed child care centers. Single parents with infants are less fortunate since the available licensed child care centers are hesitant in admitting infants (Oklahoma Child Care, 2005. p.6-10).
In Contra Costa County, children below five years of age living in households headed by a single parent account for 17% of the total number of children. However the available child care centers are overwhelmed by the numbers of children in need of these facilities. The licensed child care available can only cater for 32% of the total number of children with employed parents. That creates a deficit of 68% who may only access child care from the unlicensed child care centers and other service providers. Lack of adequate facilities to cater for the children with special needs aggravates the problem (Contra Costa Child Care Council, 2003. p.1).
Effect of Child Care Support on Employment
In general single parents who get access to child care facilities are more productive at their work places working for longer hours and hence increasing their earnings. However single parents who access the subsidized child care programs achieve over 100% increased earning with 50% increase in the total number of months engaged in productive work. It has been proved that access to subsidized child care programs is directly related to increased job retention among the beneficiary single parents. While there is 25% to 43% likelihood of decrease in job losses among the beneficiaries of the subsidized child care programs (Matthews, 2006. p.4).
It is evident that the cost of child care drains the income especially of the single parent in that it accounts for more than the proportion of the income that caters for rent, mortgages, and the cost of good quality college education (Oklahoma Child Care, 2005. p. 2).