In the United States (US), childcare costs a lot of money. According to the Women’s Bureau-Department of Labor, the median annual cost of childcare in 2018 varied from as low as $4, 810 to $15, 417. When the cost was estimated to reflect 2022 inflation, it varied from as low as $5, 357 to $17, 171. This cost is determined by the type of provider, quality of care, age of children, and geographic location. The cost also accounts for 9% to 19.3% of families median income. Meanwhile, Statista indicated that the federal minimum wage is $7.25 and states’ minimum wage ranged from as low as $5.25 to $17.00 depending on the state.

Based on the state and federal minimum wage rate, the cost of childcare has an impact on families. Mothers are commonly the victims of childcare issues. For instance, in single-mother households and low-wage families, this cost causes a potential burden such as a reduction in the household income. For working parents, the impacts could include an increase in mothers’ turnover rate and a reduction in mothers’ wages. According to News Nation Now and Business Insider, the loss of childcare due to the end of the pandemic era relief fund in September 2023 poses constraints for parents because there could be an increase in working mothers’ turnover rate or a reduction in mothers working hours. This begs the question, how do we potentially cater to low-wage families’ childcare needs?

Besides low-wage families, the post-pandemic Return to Office (RTO) policy by corporate organizations could impact professional working mothers, especially nursing mothers and toddler parents. While the pandemic spelled out the inequality in families with women having to bear the largest care responsibility during the Covid-19 remote work era, studies also showed that fathers shared in the childcare and housework. Therefore, the Return to Office could have more negative implications for parents such as an increase in the cost of childcare, a reduction in fathers’ share of the childcare and household responsibility, and an increase in women’s turnover in professional jobs.

While the April 18, 2023, White House list of care executive actions addresses some of the challenges of care in terms of cost and remuneration of care workers, the executive actions list still begs the question of inclusivity. That is, who would be able to access this childcare funding: private sector workers, public sector workers, or informal labor sector workers, taxpayers or non-taxpayers, single-parent households or partnered households, and private childcare centers or public childcare centers. The discourse on the inclusion criteria for such policies is important.

Overall, the access to affordable institutional care provided by the state and federal government could help parents cushion the cost of childcare. Also, corporate organizations’ provision of childcare subsidies to employees or onsite childcare would also provide support for parents. These solutions would will promote mothers upward mobility and reduce turnover in the workplace.

Featured Image Source: thelily

Sources (minimum wage)

CHILDCARE PRICES IN LOCAL AREAS, Women’s Bureau: Department of Labor

Collins, Caitlyn, Liana Christin Landivar, Leah Ruppanner, and William J. Scarborough. 2021. “COVID-19 and the Gender Gap in Work Hours.” Gender, Work & Organization 28(S1):101–12. doi: 10.1111/gwao.12506.