At the end of the month the new kindergarten year begins. Reading this article in the SSTimes from yesterday reminded me of just how hard the question of childcare is for many parents:
The Kiwi tradition of sending pre-schoolers to kindy is losing favour, as growing numbers of parents seek all-day care for their children.The latest annual census of early childhood education services shows the number of children enrolled in kindergartens has fallen to fewer than 40,000 a drop of 12.4% since 2005. At the same time the number of children enrolled in daycare centres has jumped from 83,889 in 2005 to 101,425 in July 2009 an increase of nearly 21%….
The Ministry of Education census shows the number of children aged three and under enrolled in licensed early childhood centres has jumped in the past five years: there has been an increase of 21% in the number of babies (under one-year-olds); 18.4% for one-year-olds; and 15% for two-year-olds. Home-based services have also gained in popularity, growing 54% in five years.
On average, children enrolled in daycare centres are now spending 23 hours a week there. Most children are enrolled part-time, but since 2005 there has been a 37% increase in the number of fulltime enrolments (more than 27 hours a week). The number of children now classed in fulltime care has jumped from nearly 25,000 five years ago to just over 34,000.
Whether it’s ‘paid-at-home’, creche or kindergarten there are real challenges facing today’s parents (and would-be parents). Whether/ when to return to work, balancing work pressures with the demands of a young family, less money versus more time, growing demands on services. We want parents to return to work, but do we want that to include parents of really young children? Is paid care really the answer? Or longer parental leave? It all adds up to a complex situation that has some fundamental implications further down the track. This young generation will be looking after us in our old age at a ratio we’ve never faced before! Meanwhile parents are hoping they’ve made the best possible choice for their kids.