Any parent knows that childcare is expensive. In Australia, the cost of childcare, especially for very young children, is among the highest in the world. Estimates of childcare costs for long day-care in 2014 from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling put the average national cost of childcare at $75 per day, with the figure rising to as much as $160 per day in some Sydney suburbs.
The cost of childcare has risen dramatically across Australia in the last decade, and according to government forecasts, will rise almost 30% over the next four years. This means that it will be harder than ever for parents, especially mums who traditionally take on more of a caring role with children, to return to work after starting a family.
Although there are government rebates available to cover some of the costs, these often fall well short of what is really needed, and a recent decision by the federal government to freeze the childcare benefit eligibility income threshold for the next three years means that fewer families will be eligible for additional support to help with the financial burden.
Lack of availability in childcare centres
The availability of places in day-care centres is another issue that is affecting working parents, and impacting on the decision of some parents to make a return to the workforce. Population growth in some suburbs has led to a shortage of places and waiting lists can be as long as a year or even two years in some places.
As increased costs and lack of availability pushes long day-care out of the reach of more families, au pairs are becoming a popular and cost-effective alternative, especially for families where parents work long or erratic hours.
Demand for au pairs increasing
Increasing numbers of Australian families are seeing the benefits of having flexible, cost-effective, in-home childcare. Au pair agencies report being flooded by inquiries from families who want to find an au pair to help them out with their full or even part-time childcare needs, where a few years ago they might have only received one or two enquiries a week.
Why are au pairs such a good choice for families?
Engaging the services of an au pair is an excellent choice for many families. The benefits include the low cost, and the flexibility of having someone on hand who will take care of the children and work around the parents’ schedules.
Families with parents working shift work, including doctors and nurses, or with one parent working on a fly in fly out (FIFO) basis often find that an au pair is the only viable solution for their childcare needs.
Having someone living in their home means that they know there will always be a responsible adult on hand even if they are working late at night, and they don’t have to get the children up early in the morning to take them to childcare if they have an early start.
Having an au pair ensures that no matter how disruptive the parents’ schedules might be, the children are able to benefit from having a stable routine and enjoy the advantages of being cared for one-on-one in their home. This is especially important for very young children, who may struggle to cope with long hours in a busy childcare centre.
Au pairs are a cost-effective childcare solution
The cost is also a major reason why many parents are choosing au pairs for their childcare. While families could be paying up to $500 a week to have a child in full time day-care, with an au pair, parents usually pay between $150 and $250 a week depending on how many hours the au pair works. Even after factoring in the cost of room and board and having another adult living in the house, an au pair still works out much cheaper than full-time long day-care and it is much more convenient.
Au pairs can also provide families with a great way to learn about other cultures, and expose children to people from different backgrounds. Many families find the process of having an au pair is very mutually beneficial, and is an opportunity for both the family and the au pair to learn from each other.
If you are struggling with the costs of returning to work, or you want to find an alternative to paying high childcare fees, it’s well worth considering hiring an au pair. There are so many benefits beyond just money, and having an au pair on hand can help working parents get back to work sooner, and enjoy a more balanced life, while knowing that their children are being well looked after.