The cost of childcare in the UK is a constant bone of contention for parents, and it seems that it will continue to be for quite some time.
According to a report this year by the Family and Childcare Trust, British parents pay over £7,500 a year for childcare for two children, almost 5% more than the average mortgage bill. Shocking statistics, and for anyone who is working in the UK these days, probably no surprise.
Britain does not fare as well as other countries when it comes to the generosity of childcare assistance. Sweden is Europe’s shining example in this regard, with the best childcare supports in the world and the most women employed in senior positions. Swedish parents get combined total of almost 500 days parental leave per child. Not only that, they actually use it all up, without repercussions at work. This means that kids spend a lot of time with both mum and dad, and society as a whole seems to benefit. We also have paternity leave in the UK, but getting up the courage to walk right in and ask to use it can be difficult and many people just let it slide.
It’s enough to make the average UK parent feel pretty glum, but we can feel a bit better when we look at the USA, where mothers are not entitled to any paid maternity leave at all. If you work for a small firm, astonishingly you are entitled to no leave at all, and as for paternity leave for dads, forget it.
The UK, it seems, lies somewhere between the utopian system of Sweden and the family-unfriendly American system. If women have more choices and kids get to spend more time with dad, there are certainly great benefits from this. The UK needs to learn from the positive examples and find out how to improve the cost of childcare at home. Here’s hoping policy makers look North, and not across the Atlantic for their inspiration.