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Shortage of child care workers affects half a million families | national

It is estimated that nearly half a million families are stranded without reliable daycareworsening the labor shortage in the country as parents continue to stay at home, according to a new report.

The report, released Tuesday by Wells Fargo economists, adds to a crescent cache of economic evidence highlighting the job losses in the sector and the ripple effects the nation’s beleaguered child care industry continues to have on the US economy.

“Access to childcare has been repeatedly shown to boost mothers’ labor force participation,” the authors wrote. “For employers struggling to find workers now and facing a future of dismal labor supply growth, improving childcare options for parents means a helping hand. -larger and more experienced workforce on which to rely.”

Employment in the child care industry remains 12.4% below its pre-pandemic level, compared to a total employment deficit of 1.9%. According to Wells Fargo estimates, that leaves about 460,000 families scrambling to find reliable, long-term child care.

“That does not mean that all [460,000] of them are unable to work, but that means they’re going to have to find different childcare arrangements, whether it’s the higher cost of nannies or it depends on the families,” Wells senior economist Sarah House Fargo and the report’s lead author, said in an interview with CNN Business.

“And for some, it also means maybe not being in the labor force as they imagined if they can’t find that access to childcare,” she added.

Women have been the main victims of these challenges, especially those with young children.

Women with children under 3 have a 28 percentage point lower labor force participation rate than men with children under 6, House said, noting that federal data on jobs do not include men with children under 3 years old.

If the participation rate of these women were equal to that of women with school-aged children (aged 6 to 17), the labor force would gain 1 million more workers, according to the report.

Additionally, no industry has a higher proportion of female employees than the child care industry, where women make up 96% of workers, she said.

While the child care and early learning industry needs more workers, some significant barriers persist, House said: including low wages and health risks associated with the ongoing pandemic. .

In 2020, the average salary of an educator was less than $12.25 per hourlanding among the lowest paid professionsaccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Last month, a report of the Daycare Employment Study Center at the University of California, Berkeley, found that many employees in California’s child care industry earn below or near federal poverty wages, resulting in about one-third of these workers depending some form of government assistance.

“For decades, low levels of public investment in this sector have kept the early childhood and education workforce – mostly women of color and immigrant women – in dire financial straits,” wrote the researchers at the University of California at Berkeley.

Direct federal spending on child care and early education totaled about $29.7 billion in 2021, up from $20.6 billion in 2019, according to the Wells Fargo report.

The amount of federal spending on child care in 2019 was less than 4% of Department of Defense spending and 3% of Medicaid and Medicare, the economists noted.

Within the childcare industry, there is a “compensation paradigm”, according to the report: childcare is expensive for parents, but workers and early educators pay below the norm , according to the report.

Child care costs an average of $11,000 a year, or about 14% of the median household income for a family with a child under the age of 6 — but actual costs may be much higher. The average salary for a worker in the child care industry was around $25,060 in 2020.

“With tuition already requiring such a large share of family income, child care centers struggle to significantly raise wages,” the authors wrote.

Extensive federal funding for child care was proposed by President Joe Biden and included in the Build Back Better Bill passed by the House of Representatives in November. However, with this plan currently stalled, the $800 billion the bill proposes to spend over the next 10 years has been siphoned off.

One solution proposed by House and his fellow economists is to treat the child care industry like public education: tax-funded K-12 systems, community colleges and universities.

“But a lot of it is a past addiction in that we haven’t done it in the past, which makes it really hard to do it now,” she said.

That leaves the matter more in the hands of states, House said, adding that a gradual process — as opposed to wholesale change — is more likely to happen.

“[At the state level] That’s where the momentum lies, in terms of policy experimentation and chances of trying to expand access to early childhood care and education,” she said.


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