Child Care - Who cares?

18 May 2017

As part of our series on women returning to the workforce the focus of this post is on child care arrangements.

There’s no doubt most of our Western societies depend on working mothers. This is especially true in New Zealand. The participation rate of women in the workforce has risen steadily in New Zealand in the last 20 years, from 54.6% to 65.7%, one of the highest in the OECD.  We believe that there are more working mothers in paid employment in New Zealand than at any time in recent history. 

As a society we welcome working mothers into the workforce, but many of our organisations have little understanding of what this means to the mother. As a mother planning to return to the workforce one of the crucial decisions is "who is going to look after my child while I work". Making and implementing this decision can be a frustrating process which is complicated by financial circumstances and guilt about whether it's the right thing to do.

Our research suggests that currently early child care centres are now the largest provider of such services for return to work mothers, followed by relatives.  Other carers include in-home child care, often several children from more than one family, and fathers.  This last might surprise some of you but it's happening.  We don't have too many stats on this but a quick look at what's happening in the UK can be seen in this Stay at Home Fathers UK.

The early child care business has grown considerably in the last decade and we are now seeing large providers emerge, like Evolve Education Group, who listed on the NZ Stock exchange in 2014 and have grown steadily since.  A large number of smaller centres have also opened, one right beside our offices in Newmarket.

The decision to choose in home, centre based or alternative learning models such as Montessori  or Rudolf Steiner  give parents’ choice.   The choice matters, but it’s the cost and more importantly the quality of care that matters most.

Depending on the age of your child the NZ Government provides child care subsidies for up to 20 hours per week (Childcare subsidies). 

Whatever care you choose, a good place to start your research is the ERO (Education Review Office New Zealand ). The ERO provides reports on the majority of child care, pre-schools, or kindergartens in New Zealand. Their findings are published online and are comprehensive, covering everything from children to staff ratios, qualifications of teachers, ethnicities of children and include improvements needed.

But reading ERO reviews is only one step in the process of making one of the biggest decisions in your child’s life. Every effort you make will help you make the best decision.

Visit the centres, talk to the teachers, talk to parents of the other children. These conversations can help you make the right choice. Ask friends, family and work colleagues for recommendations. Learn to let go of the guilt a little.

Think about the logistics - how far do you need to travel to the centre that interests you.  Check out the opening times and when your child must be picked up by. Talk to your employer about why you have to leave by a certain time.  Almost all child care centres will penalise parents who turn up late to pick up their children.

The good news for working mothers is that recent research by Harvard Business School, revealed daughters of mothers who work, have a higher level of success than the daughters of mothers who don’t. Harvard working mothers Research .  So pat yourselves on the back – you’re a great role model! 

At Alpha we have a high proportion of female employees, clients and candidates, we’d like to hear your experiences of organising child care.

  • Who did you talk to and why did you choose your provider?
  • Do you think your employer should subsidise your child care?
  • Do you have someone at home to look after your children?

We'd love to hear from you and you can either comment below or email us at


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