The need of nannies (yayas to Filipinos) in Australia looks like a consequence mainly due to both parents working and need someone looking after the kids at home not at a child care centre. While currently the commonwealth government does provide limited financial support for nannies but the opposition Liberal party has committed to change this policy if it wins government. Let’s wait after the next federal election.
From the Sydney Sun-Herald
Welcome to the nanny state
Cathy Clark can’t remember the last time a woman called her agency looking for a nanny to take care of the children while mum had a hit of tennis or went out to lunch.
”In the last five years I haven’t placed anyone with a non-working parent who only has one child,” says Clark, who has run the My Little Friend Nanny Agency in Ashbury for 20 years. ”Ninety-nine per cent of my clients are just hardworking families who want good-quality childcare and a good work life balance.”
Once considered a luxury enjoyed by the super wealthy, nannies are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to childcare as parents try to juggle professional careers with the needs of their children.http://ad-apac.doubleclick.net/adi/onl.bt.lands/lands;ctype=article;cat=lands;pos=3;sz=300×250;tile=3;ord=38216227?
”It’s not a Mary Poppins thing, where mum is just twiddling her thumbs and dad makes loads of money,” says Debbie Otto, who uses a nanny to look after her five-year-old twins – Jenson and Joshua – before and after school. ”It’s working parents just trying to make it work when they don’t have family around.”
Yet there is still a lingering prejudice that nannies are a more indulgent form of childcare. The federal government will pay half of a family’s childcare fees but its ”registered carer” benefit will buy just one hour with a nanny a week. Its rationale is that it cannot monitor the standard of care nannies provide and it does not want taxpayers footing the bill for the domestic duties nannies also perform. But social policy experts argue that in the absence of universally available quality childcare, the government must subsidise nannies if it wants to increase female participation in the workforce and bolster Australia’s productivity.
”Getting women into the workforce requires attention on what they’re not doing in the home,” an associate professor from UNSW‘s Social Policy Research Centre, Lyn Craig, says. ”Women’s home responsibilities have long been regarded as a women’s problem, not a society problem that needs to be addressed. If the objective is to assist families to ensure they have essential care and participate in the workforce, then what helps them do that is less important.”
A Bureau of Statistics 2008 childcare survey found that 3.3 per cent of under-twos in care were looked after by a nanny or au pair, rising to 4.6 per cent of three- to five-year-olds, and 4.2 per cent of six- to eight-year-olds.
Anecdotal evidence suggests the proportion of families using a nanny has risen markedly since then. The national Dial-an-Angel agency, based in Edgecliff, has recorded a 15 per cent increase in the number of parents wanting ”part-time professional childcare in the home” for their children since 2005.
The rise of the nanny reflects the shifting demographics of Australian society. Women are increasingly returning to work after having a child, keen to continue their career, or to simply help pay a hefty Sydney mortgage, according to the Women and Work Research Group at Sydney University.
Nearly half of Australian children under two have both parents employed but couples can no longer rely on extended family to help out. Many people do not live in the same city or even the same country as their parents. Those who do cannot count on grandparent care, as the baby boomer generation stays on in paid work longer.
”I don’t think grandparents are as involved as they used to be,” Clark says. ”More grandparents are working past the age of 65, and the demographics of Sydney have changed slightly. Twenty years ago people would buy a house around the corner from their parents. Now couples can’t afford to buy where they grew up. Families aren’t as accessible.”
For many working parents, formal childcare is not flexible enough. Their jobs do not always fit the rigid opening hours of childcare centres, and it can be a logistical nightmare making multiple drop-offs during the peak-hour commute across Sydney to the office. ”If the workplace isn’t flexible, then families have to be, and nannies are a flexible substitute for childcare,” Craig says.
There is less disruption to the child’s routine when they are looked after at home, nanny advocates say, and the added bonus that nannies will shop, clean and cook dinner while parents are at work.
Parents are willing to pay a premium for the flexibility of a nanny – especially when children get sick, or school holidays roll around. It costs $250 (plus superannuation) to hire a qualified nanny for 10 hours, almost double the cost of a day in childcare. But once you have two or more children, the fees are quite comparable.
”The costs associated with centre-based care are virtually equivalent to having a nanny once you have a couple of babies,” Roxanne Elliott, who runs online childcare information service CareForKids, says. She has noticed a big trend towards nanny sharing, where families split the cost of a nanny to make it more affordable.
”All the advantages are there, particularly for the career woman who wants to continue their career,” Elliott says. ”Knowing the child is in their home environment and getting individual attention, they can focus on work.”
Having twins made it more economical for Otto to use a nanny, especially when she could not get consistent before- and after-school care. ”It does put a bit more strain financially, but if I’m going to work then it has to work for everybody,” says Otto, who lives in Woolooware but commutes to the eastern suburbs to work as a group account manager. ”We want to make sure the boys are well-adjusted and they’re as comfortable as they can be.”
Nannies are particularly popular for babies and toddlers, partly because there is a chronic shortage of places at formal childcare centres for children aged two and younger, and partly because many mothers prefer one-on-one care for young children.
Lise Rawlings spends more than $50,000 a year on a nanny for her 18-month-old son Anton, which chews up her husband’s entire part-time salary. The 36-year-old mother from Lane Cove estimates she would save $10,000 a quarter if they swapped to childcare but agrees with parenting expert Steve Biddulph that individual care is best for boys under two.
”Me and my husband debate about it all the time,” says Ms Rawlings, who works full-time as a manager in financial services. ”He thinks it costs too much, I just keep quoting Steve Biddulph. I would have found it quite distressing leaving [our son] in childcare. When he gets a bit older we might think about it.”
As more families opt for nannies, there is mounting pressure on the government to remove the discrimination inherent in its childcare subsidies. ”The outsourcing of childcare costs should be treated equally, it shouldn’t be dependent on the type of service you use,” Craig says. ”Some families don’t have much alternative to using a nanny.”
Like nanny employers and many working mothers, Craig believes tax deductions or rebates for nanny services would boost female participation in the workforce – especially when the lack of quality affordable childcare prevents some mothers going back to work.
But the formal childcare sector is against government subsidies for nannies, arguing they do not provide the same regulated quality early education services. ”Government subsidies have very strict and increasingly high quality requirements,” Barbara Romeril, who represents non-profit childcare services, says. ”We would resist any blurring of the boundaries between a nanny and a government-subsidised service.”
Romeril believes that families using nannies can find themselves isolated from their community. ”It’s a loss to that family’s resilience. It doesn’t link the family in with broader social services.”
The government could not provide the same subsidies for nannies as childcare, as they are different services, according to the federal Minister for Child Care, Kate Ellis.
”It is not feasible to monitor the standard of care provided under private arrangements in the child’s own home,” Ellis says.
”Nannies and au pairs also often provide other services – such as shopping or cooking – which aren’t childcare and shouldn’t be subsidised by taxpayers. It would be impossible to separately identify the time spent on such duties.”