CHILD’S PLAY: The absurd notion that childcare has to include education by qualified workers is preventing people from expanding their families. Picture: Ella Pellegrini
CHILD’S PLAY: The absurd notion that childcare has to include education by qualified workers is preventing people from expanding their families. Picture: Ella Pellegrini

Childcare kills parenting dream

AUSTRALIAN fertility and birth rates in freefall give a grave indication the system we live under is broken, especially regarding childcare.

Wage growth has stopped in the past few years, but government charges, taxes and excises - at all levels - continue to climb.

Costs of living are so reliant on government policies and yet taxpayers are treated like inexhaustible cash cows, being milked for every penny.

Fuel, alcohol and tobacco taxes come on top of GST and income tax, yet half of Australian homes don't pay nett tax after rebates and refunds.

This means governments have to find new, sneaky ways to fund their own existence using your money.

Throw in the disgraceful "stamp duty" on insurance, car and land sales and whatever else you can think of (and for which there is no tangible benefit received) and it's clear that personal finances are at the mercy of government greed and waste.

It was announced this week that Queensland's fertility rate has hit 1.82 children per woman - the lowest in 13 years and the fifth-lowest in the state's history.

At least one think tank believes the welfare state is to blame for plummeting birth rates.

In the past, you needed children to look after you in old age and to take care of the family assets.

But now the state has assumed this role and the need for children has decreased.

But there's also the reality that both members of a couple have to work in order to afford a mortgage, and to pay taxes and still have some sort of fun.

Throwing a kid into that mix is financially scary, not just because of the costs added to an already stressed budget, but because your wife/partner might be reluctant to put her career on hold and risk missing a big promotion and pay rise the couple needs to maintain or enhance their lifestyle.

Childcare then presents a new issue and another one the government has too much control over.

Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm drew a storm of criticism last year when he said " … you don't need a Certificate III and 18 months of study to be a childcare worker to wipe children's noses and stop them from killing each other."

He argued that the government forcing people to gain formal childcare qualifications had pushed up wage costs which were passed on to parents.

This has merit.

Not so long ago, childcare consisted of kids finger painting, climbing on monkey bars, kicking a footy and hammering bits of wood together.

More serious schooling happened at kindy and preschool.

Now there appears to be this obsession with starting kids on schoolwork from the moment they're born.

Everything from the books they read and have read to them, to even their diets are strictly monitored and controlled by regulation.

As reported even in 2014, this requires turning simple carers into educators and involves increasing reporting requirements, and mandating minimum levels of qualification.

These ridiculous standards are driving the cost out of reach of many who want to add to their brood.

Many women would love to have more kids but can't afford the average $17,500 to $20,000 a year it costs to put one in childcare.

One mum I know worked out that if she had another child and sent both to daycare, she'd be working for $4 a day. Unbelievable.

Parents should have a choice of daycare. If you want the "platinum" care with supplied calorie-controlled meals and the latest in educational resources, you can pay top dollar.

If you're happy for your kids to stay at the old lady's place down the road eating peanut butter sandwiches, finger painting and watching Wiggles DVDs for a few bucks a day, then that should be allowed also.

This will go a long way towards addressing childcare shortages and keeping women in their careers, not to mention improving the birth rate.

It's a win-win-win.

Populations need fertility rates of at least 2.1 to be sustainable, so we're already on the slippery slope.

As this number drops, governments have to increase immigration to maintain the population, and that - as has been shown - has too many negative consequences to be encouraged in its current form.