For decades, most businesses have created a sharp separation between the personal and the professional. However in recent years—particularly since COVID—more and more businesses have seen the significance of supporting their employees through personal support systems, including child care.
Today, working parents comprise roughly one-third of the U.S. workforce. For these families, having a safe, affordable, and accessible place for their children during work hours is a necessity—one that bolsters economic recovery and provides parents with professional opportunities and fulfillment.
Understanding the child care landscape—and the depth and breadth of this crisis—as a business owner or executive can help support families and their children, leading to a stronger economy, higher productivity rates, and a more engaged workforce.
Child supervision and child care is a critical concern for many U.S. workers. One-third of the workforce, or an approximate 50 million workers, has a child under the age of 14 in their household—and of these workers, 30 percent have a child under the age of 6.
Historically, many parents with younger children have relied on child care arrangements in order to work and provide an income. One study found that almost 60 percent of children under the age of 5 were enrolled in regular, weekly care arrangements with a non-parental provider. However, the pandemic wreaked havoc on the child care industry, resulting in many programs shutting down permanently.
The inability to find reliable, affordable, and accessible child care programs severely impacted parents in the workforce: In a 2020 survey of 2,500 working parents, nearly 20 percent had to leave work or reduce their work hours due to a lack of child care—and only 30 percent of all working parents had any form of backup childcare.
Although the lack of child care impacts workers of all environments, many remote workers are feeling the impact. Approximately 58 percent—or the equivalent of 92 million Americans—say they work remotely at least part of the time.
Of those surveyed, respondents were asked to identify what made it hard for them to perform their jobs effectively and workers with children frequently report feelings of burnout: 73 percent of parents with symptoms of burnout reported that the demands of their job interfered with their private and family life. In addition, 90 percent of those surveyed noted that senior management at their workplace considered productivity more important than mental health, a factor that could play a key role in leading parents to consider new job options.
Data shows that the United States’ gross domestic product could be 5 percent higher if women participated in the workforce as actively as men—however, without the supports made possible through accessible child care, many women may never get the chance.
A universal lack of accessible child care leads to a substantial economic impact as well. One study prior to the pandemic estimated that the lack of child care cost the nation $57 billion each year in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue, and $1.7 billion in annual costs for North Carolina.
The child care crisis impacts more than just parents and children—it leads to substantial costs for employers and taxpayers. Businesses are estimated to lose an average of $1,150 per working parent in reduced revenue and in extra hiring costs, an impact that could be decreased or eliminated with a business’s investment in accessible early child care.
When employers start treating child care with the same intensity and commitment as health care or long-term retirement benefits, they will see tremendous benefits—and harness the financial advantage of an entire workforce.
How each business can support working parents will depend on each individual company and its working environment, however, a few ideas may include:
For many working parents, flexibility in their work schedule and environment can provide positive benefits. If employers expand policies to support all working parents—allowing them to work a different set of hours, for example, or work from home when necessary—women are less likely to cite child care as a reason for becoming unemployed.
For businesses, child care is not tax-incentivized in the same way as health care is—however, corporations and businesses can do a better job in providing a caregiving benefit for employees. For example, paid leave in California and Massachusetts is structured in a way that employers pay into a fund that can be used by employees for any type of caregiving—including a child, spouse, or elderly family member.
When a business or employer is able to offer child care, either locally in their community or in an on-site program, employees—and in particular women and women of color—will experience a plethora of positive benefits, including:
One Place’s Foundations of Resilience course programming offers professional development classes and support for business owners—from fostering community connection to encouraging personal and professional growth.