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Childcare costs are a significant barrier to paid work for sole parents.

This means many sole parents can’t work even when they want to.

About half of sole mothers in NZ are in paid work – one of the lowest rates in the OECD.

Chart showing % of sole mothers in paid work for selected countries (New Zealand is 34 out of 39 countries): Switzerland 86%, Russian Fed. 78%, Israel, 76%, Mexico 72%, Canada 69%, United States 69%, OECD-31 average 65%, EU average 64%, United Kingdom 59%, New Zealand 54%, Australia 51%, Ireland 46%, Malta 45%, Turkey 39%.

Childcare costs for sole parents in NZ are some of the highest in the OECD (The cost of childcare as a percentage of income for sole parents in New Zealand is the sixth highest of 35 countries), even with 20 hours free early childhood education (ECE) and other childcare subsidies.

The OECD estimates that childcare costs in NZ account for 25% of the income of a single mother in full time paid work.

In 2017, at least one in three sole parents turned down paid work or stopped searching for work because of difficulty finding childcare.

Quote from the We Are Beneficiaries project: “I am currently on maternity leave with a toddler and baby.  I really want to get back to work but after losing the family tax credits due to higher family income and pre-school costs for two kiddies, I will literally be working full time for $80 a week.  And then we wonder why we still have a gender pay gap.  Fund pre-school so we can actually work!”

NZ needs to better support sole parents wanting to work:

– increase the childcare subsidy

– make it easier for people who need it to get the childcare subsidy

– increase the amount people can earn before their benefits are reduced

Data sources and calculations

This work is based on/includes Stats NZ’s data which are licensed by Stats NZ for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

See also How can I use the data stories?

Data sourced from: OECD
Dataset name: Family database
url: http://www.oecd.org/els/family/database.htm
The labour market position of families > LMF 1.3 Maternal employment by partnership status > tab Chart LMF1.3A

Data sourced from: OECD
Dataset name: Family database
url: http://www.oecd.org/els/family/database.htm
Public policies for families and children > PF3.4 Childcare support > tab Chart PF3.4C > column: Net cost, % of family net income

Data sourced from: Stats NZ
Dataset name: Household labour force survey, Childcare in NZ Supplement 2017
url: https://www.stats.govt.nz/news/childcare-a-challenge-for-1-in-6-working-parents
Table Work consequences resulting from childcare difficulties, by family type, September 2017 quarter