The child care system is in crisis, impacting women in and out of the field. Women make up a majority of the child care workforce and are most affected by the lack of child care available. Without sufficient investment in childcare, we are simultaneously limiting the wages of providers, and hindering mothers who want or need to maintain employment.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, women account for 95% of the child care workforce, a majority of whom are either black or Latina. Despite their essential role in supporting children’s development, many are paid egregiously low wages. The Economic Policy Institute states that the average hourly wage for child care workers is $13.51, half the average hourly wage for the general workforce. This disparity goes further when we compare women’s wages to men’s. As described by the US Government Accountability Office, the wage gap for black and Latina women shows that their pay goes as low as $.63 and $.58 for every dollar White men earn. Child care workers are essential. They provide necessary care and education for the young children who make up our future generations. Adequate compensation for this workforce is long overdue.
At Early Care & Learning Council (ECLC), we are working to address this crisis and are committed to supporting this women-led workforce. Our partnering organization, the Empire State Campaign for Child Care, continues to call for a $1.2 billion investment in the compensation and benefits of the child care workforce. This additional funding would allow for a bonus of $12,500 per child care provider—to be paid until a permanent, fully-funded wage scale can be implemented. It is imperative we ensure proper wages are paid to black and Latina women who maintain the child care field.
Not only is increased investment crucial for workers to be paid a living wage, but it will also ensure that women in other fields can maintain employment. The Center for American Progress (CAP) has found that mothers unable to find a child care program were significantly less likely to be employed than those who found a child care program. In contrast, there was no impact found on fathers’ employment. Access to high-quality, affordable child care is crucial for working mothers to maintain employment and advance their careers, yet many families struggle to find inexpensive and accessible child care options. This child care crisis is not new and has been a significant issue for working parents, particularly women, for many years. The Alliance for Quality Education reports on issues in finding and affording care for children, which date back over the past decade. The time for increased investment is now.
Funding child care would significantly impact the early education sector and result in more child care options for working mothers. This also makes the most financial sense for our economy as a whole. The National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs has found that high-quality early childhood programs can yield a $4 – $9 return per $1 invested. Early child care and education are essential, and insufficient care for children under 3 depletes the country of $122 billion each year in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue. Underfunded child care leads to high staff turnover rates, a lack of continuity of care, and exacerbates parents’ already limited child care options. All of these can be detrimental to children’s development and the continued employment of women across our workforce. ECLC is committed to addressing this crisis—one that profoundly impacts black and Latina women—by supporting investment in the child care workforce. Through advocacy, resources, and public awareness campaigns, ECLC is working to create a more equitable system where all children can access high-quality early care; workers are appropriately compensated, and working parents, particularly women, can thrive.