Think of the children…

So what about the children
Remember when we were children
And if not for those who loved us and who cared enough to show us
Where would we be today – What about the Children, Yolanda Adams

Benny has real problems with childcare – more specifically problems with funding for childcare – problems that I must admit I don’t really care about. Well I didn’t. But he makes a valid point. There’s a range of factors playing behind the scenes in the childcare debate – the economic argument – childcare encourages parents back into the workforce, the social argument – are children are better off raised by their parents than being pushed through ABC learning centres, and the political argument – should childcare be a political issue.

The economic argument seems simple on the surface – if parents can put their young children into affordable childcare they can return to the workforce and a household becomes a double income household contributing more to the economy via tax. The argument is pretty simple when it comes to single parents needing subsidised childcare – but in this double income situation it’s a different question. The politically correct brigade who want to argue that having children is a choice and society shouldn’t be burdened by those who make that choice are kind of missing the point – they can all die out. Their estates can be held in trust distributing to whatever crazy social cause they want to and this selfish ideology should hopefully die out with them. Both religion and Darwinism would argue that a primary function of human life is to recreate – or procreate – or have children. These evolutionary throwbacks are probably doing their bit by not spawning offspring with the same intolerable world view. But that’s a tangent. The reality is our society needs children. Economists would argue that if we stopped having children we could rely on migrants to pick up the population slack – but economists are often restricted to thinking within the square and forget about human issues. If we were all robots that would work – but while there are people like Pauline Hanson – who suggests that anyone who is offended by the Australian flag should leave the country – I think we need to realise that the human condition involves placing value in intangibles. That’s another tangent – and here’s another one – someone today wrote a letter to the editor in the Townsville Bulletin that suggested that the budget was simply the Liberal’s attempt to grab votes. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what politics is about – providing a legislative framework that is the most popular within the electorate. So excuse me if I don’t share the cynicism of this particular letter writer – I thought all politicing was overt vote grabbing. Now that the tangents are over I’ll resume the point on childcare – at the moment there is barely an economic argument for single mothers to re-enter the workforce after childbirth. The government provides important family payments to ensure children don’t die of malnutrition and that sort of thing – if a mother returns to work she is entitled to less money from centrelink and has to pay more tax, plus childcare – it just doesn’t add up. I think, at this point, the government should be subsidising child care – or publicising it (making it a public service) – which they already do for education. The current situation of unregulated privatised childcare is only great for the owners who are out buying private jets and stuff. Which is where Benny’s argument starts to make sense:

“Government is subsidising childcare to the point where the industry is built on profitably exploiting the subsidy. If it is continued to be subsidised in this way, we will be paying excessive amounts for childcare through both direct payments and taxes, whilst the childcare owners will be dancing around on piles of money.”

Which is true. Ben thinks the Government’s willingness to extensively subsidise childcare is creating a viscious cycle where private businesses are jumping on the childcare bandwagon and charging more than they have to because of the subsidy.

“What are people asking for when they complain about expensive childcare? Is it an arguement that the government is failing or an arguement that they dont like paying free-market childcare rates? If the government is to subsidise childcare in this way, it isnt going to make childcare cheaper, it is going to make it more expensive. It is going to increase childcare demand, increase the already extensively profitable childcare rates, and result in more profits to private childcare. Basically, the current state of childcare is basically a goldmine to private firms who get it organised. The belief in society that childcare should be cheap and readily available has created this incredibly inefficient market that is costing a fortune.”

Ben suggests that there’s a belief in the inherent right to childcare – a belief that the Government should be providing care for its youngest citizens. It seems to me that this belief comes from a variety of factors – there’s an economic argument for getting parents into the workforce and providing further stimulus to the economy through high employment. But there’s a social cost to having children essentially raised by the state, or by a corporate body designed solely to make money from the commodity of children. Parental responsibility should extend past choosing the most beneficial child care centre – regardless of the criteria used to assess each centre. I’d like to think that parents will choose the best option for their kids, not the cheapest. But the fact is one on one parenting is a better relational model than putting kids in the daycare environment where they are spending time divided amongst a number of carers who are spread across every child’s needs. I can’t help but think that childcare is a bad model encouraged by purely economic factors. There’s a reason school doesn’t start until a kid is 5 – parents can’t abdicate every responsibility to either the state or a third party. That’s not what parenting is about.

On the political front – looking after the “family” is smart politics – the family remains the dominant social unit despite the growing trend for remaining single or childless – no one wants to be seen to be against the family – except militant vegan lesbians who want everything to be geared towards their impact free life choices. The “for the children” mentality is safe political territory operating on the following syllogism:

P is good for children
Children are good
Therefore, anything related to children is good
Therefore, P is good

Which doesn’t quite work – but it’s the way people think. It’s manipulative, it’s good for gaining votes and that’s politics. Without winning votes you don’t win. Ben made this interesting point:

“I have this theory because before you have a family, you have higher free income and can afford more and have more time to display personal principles, and argue about the economics and social justices regarding issues. However, families just want to get by, get more money to put away for kids, and somehow get through their childrens education. to them, childcare rebates sound like a win.”


mark says:

Parental responsibility should extend past choosing the most beneficial child care centre – regardless of the criteria used to assess each centre.

Absolutely! But that may be part of parental responsibility. One doesn’t abrogate one’s responsibility as a parent by sending kids to school, whether it be public, private, or home schooling (all have pros and cons).

But the fact is one on one parenting is a better relational model than putting kids in the daycare environment where they are spending time divided amongst a number of carers who are spread across every child’s needs.

The difference I think is the expectation that “childcare” or any “schooling” replaces “parenting”
which you rightly point out is completely different. The horror stories being the 6am-6pm “outsourcing” of parenting every day, but several of the child care workers I know have seen this.

We haven’t needed to do the govt funded child care thing because Grandmas are so much better – but if that wasn’t an option, we’d consider 1-2 days a week, just to help get stuff done.