The last several years have served as one prolonged watershed moment for the early care and education sector.
The pandemic and its many aftershocks — including a hit to labor force participation among women and a severe early childhood staffing shortage — helped many Americans unacquainted with these issues begin to understand the integral role that early care and education play in economic and social stability.
Many employers became more aware of the challenges of raising children in the United States, where child care and early childhood education are not guaranteed and, in many places and for many families, are prohibitively expensive and inaccessible.
The national annual average price of child care in 2022 was $10,853. In some parts of the country, it can cost more than double that. A federal solution to this widespread and well-documented scourge has not emerged, though Congress came close to passing transformative legislation around child care in 2021. While other efforts have been proposed — and some have even passed — at the state and local levels, many working families are still left in the lurch.
As a result, some employers have stepped in, offering a range of child care benefits in hopes of attracting and retaining qualified workers in a tight labor market — the idea being that, if employees are happy with their child care arrangements, they will show up to work more focused and satisfied.
In a recent Care.com survey administered to leaders from 500 companies, 46 percent said they are prioritizing child care benefits in 2023. That probably has something to do with the fact that nearly 80 percent said they’ve found that child care benefits boost their company’s productivity, recruitment and retention.