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Childcare changes on the horizon?

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Maike Currie, Fidelity International, 11 May 2020

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With many parents now working from home and locked down with their children 24/7, any pre-existing childcare arrangements have been put on hold.

Although it may feel stressful now - especially if you have the added duties of home-schooling - there will come a time when things return to something like ‘normal’. When that time comes, our new ways of working may reveal new choices in childcare.

Time to share the care?

Women are still the most likely to take a career break to raise a family - and here there is very little gender parity to speak of. Fidelity’s research1 shows that when it comes child care, 75% of women adjust their working life in one way or another, while over half of men (51%) continue working full-time. Meanwhile, shared parental leave remains chronically under-used: just 9,200 opted to take shared parental leave in 2017/2018 – equivalent to just 1% of those eligible to do so.2

A lot of those fathers who work full-time have now found themselves with a front row seat when it comes to the day-to-day care of their children. For those whose partners also work, they will have found themselves participating fully in the roles of cook, cleaner, entertainer and educator, with schools and nurseries closed.

This will have brought a fresh perspective. It may be that parents are taking another look at how they work and the effect on the family - the time spent commuting, long office hours and parents and children being metaphorical ships in the night during the week. Parents may want to find a better way and use flexible working options to share the care.

It’s not cheap either…

For many, the monthly cost of childcare is bigger than their grocery bill and transport costs and second only to their mortgage. For some families the cost of childcare even eclipses the monthly mortgage payment.

While reviewing their current working and childcare arrangements, parents may look to reduce those hefty childcare bills. One way would be to adopt a more shared approach to childcare and rely less on providers like childminders, nannies and nurseries.

There may be no choice - recent events mean that several private nurseries are under threat, which could mean fewer and fewer childcare places available. Less availability tends to mean higher prices too. Working parents with pre-school age children may want to look into new childcare arrangements for a number of reasons.

What will the future look like?

Covid-19 has enforced office closures and working from home has demonstrated to both parents and employers that it is possible to adopt a new approach. Necessity is the mother of all invention after all, and post-lockdown, employers may be more inclined to implement more flexible home working arrangements.

This would give parents more scope to share the care and blur the traditional lines. Greater flexibility in the way we work will open up avenues for men to take on more of the childcare and free up women to increase their hours and return to their careers. When that happens, women can start to reclaim some of that earning potential that has been missed due to the role of primary carer.

Perhaps there is a silver-lining in this lockdown after all - could this be the catalyst for a revolution in childcare?

Sources

Fidelity International surveyed 2,000 UK adults, with an equal gender split, on their views around money and their finances. All respondents had over £1k worth of investible assets. Research was carried out by Opinium Research in February 2020.

Research conducted by EMW, based on data provided by HM Revenue & Customs, covering the period April 2017 to March 2018.

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