The Herald recently ran an investigative report into how ECE centres 'work' the 20hrs-free childcare subsidy here in Aotearoa. Every child over the age of three is guaranteed free access to childcare, but in reality most parents pay a top-up fee as the subsidy is only about $11.50 per child-hour. Some Kindergartens will charge you $50 a week 'contribution', while some private centres will bind you to compulsory enrollment times and charge you $400 per week.
You can read all about it here:
Two children at my centre have recently left with a third poised to go because of this compulsory hours component. One child spends a day with his father, another is an only child, while the third has a newborn and Mum at home...
They want to spend time at home with Mum and Dad but the runaway gravy train that is ECEC can't bear to let go - it's all or nothing when it comes to the ching ching and there are plenty more kiddies on the waiting list.
The majority of the families at my centre are either in serious debt or so consumed by conspicuous consumption that they can't let go of the career ladder for their children. They have weekend children. When one Mum told me that she had decided to quit her job to spend precious time with her only son, she spoke of the battle with her husband over the loss of income and how it would primarily impact on their 'fun'. She won; I see them about all the time off to a park or the beach with friends... free fun. No longer does he cry at the centre window as Mum drives off to work.
What would happen if more families simplified life for the sake of their children? To have a parent as the primary caregiver rather than a stressed-out professional? We have high unemployment and too many centres; would it be a setback for women as far as workplace equality? Although I can't image society will collapse, it would be interesting to see the roll-on effects of a large drop in attendance.
Would I lose my job? Now there's a thought.
3/4/13 Update: Another family rebels against compulsory full-time and gives notice...