Working mothers have to fork out more for childcare in Britain than in any other country in the developed world.

A third of UK family income goes towards nurseries and childminders – almost four times the cost in Germany and three times that of France.

Charities say the exorbitant costs – which can reach £20,000 per child – are down to the fact that the Government targets state help for childcare towards those on lower incomes, pushing up costs for others.

It means the middle classes are bearing the brunt of spiralling costs, leaving them with bills of more than £160 a week on average for nursery places.

Critics, however, warn that the true cost of the trend towards having both parents out at work is not the financial one, but the emotional and developmental cost for children who grow up without their mother at home.

A study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of 32 industrialised nations, found that 33 per cent of a British family’s net income goes towards the cost of childcare.

This is higher than every other country in Europe and the rest of the Western world. German parents pay just 8 per cent of their net income towards childcare, while in France the figure is 11 per cent. Costs tend to be higher in English-speaking countries: 19 per cent in the U.S, 22 per cent in Canada, 28 per cent in New Zealand and 29 per cent in Ireland.

But none exceed the amount paid by British parents. The OECD average is just 13 per cent of income, the report says.

The most recent figures show that in the UK, the cost of a full-time under-two’s nursery place is £167 a week – rising to as high as £375 a week in areas like central London. This works out as more than £18,000 a year.

For children under the age of two,  their costs are even higher because they require more hands-on care. Nursery costs increased by 5.1 per cent in the last year alone – twice the rate of inflation.

Childminders cost an average of £152 a week for a two-year-old. But in London, costs can be as high as £400 a week – some £20,000 a year.

The costs are based on care for 50 hours a week. Charges are higher if the parents are working non-standard hours.

Childminder costs

Childminders cost an average of £152 a week in the UK

The reason that British charges are so much higher is that, unlike in Europe, there is little government support for childcare. What help there is is targeted at those on lower incomes.

For the better off, the only help is 12 and a half hours of free nursery or playschool places for 38 weeks of the year.

European countries tend to provide much more funding for childcare to allow mothers to continue in work. In Sweden, for example, pre-school places are available from the age of one, and no one pays more than 3 per cent of their monthly income per child.

The OECD report, Gender Brief, compared childcare costs before tax breaks and state help; and then childcare costs after this help. In the UK costs are 43 per cent of family income before government help, and 33 per cent afterwards.

Willem Adema, one of the report’s authors, said: ‘The British system is geared towards lower income groups, with various tax credits focused at them.

‘For these parents, childcare isn’t that much more expensive than in other countries. But the moment your earnings hit a certain level it becomes much more expensive.’

Kate Groucutt of the Daycare Trust charity, which campaigns for affordable childcare, said the figures were ‘of huge concern’.

She said: ‘The crippling cost of childcare in the UK means that many parents are finding they are financially better working only part-time or not at all, and children are missing out on the proven benefits of good quality early years education.’

But Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said: ‘It is a misnomer to call policies family-friendly when they are aimed at keeping parents apart from their young children for large portions of the day.’

Why do you think the UK tops the chart as the most expensive for childcare? What needs to be done by the Government to stop both childcare providers and parents facing a high expense from the cost of childcare? Join the discussion by leaving your comments below!

Source: Daily Mail

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