Without childcare, the only way many parents can get back into the workforce is to rely on grandparents to take care of their children while they’re at work. Ironically, for many, this means moving away from the inner city, the productive hub that generates 25 per cent of NSW’s economic output, to places where unemployment is higher and job prospects bleak.
Great cities, global cities, are that because they have diverse communities: vibrant and varied, young and old, wealthy and struggling – and that diversity includes parents and children. For Sydney to be a city and not just a business district, the needs of all of our community must be met. Over the past 10 years, the number of residents in the City of Sydney has increased by more than 40 per cent, and we are the largest and fastest growing local government area in the state.
Services need to keep pace, and that includes childcare.
Yet, despite an existing shortage of 3,104 childcare places, a growing population, and a projected rise in childcare demand, which will raise the shortfall to nearly 6,000 by 2031, the Lord Mayor has cut $15 million out of the City of Sydney’s budget for new childcare centres.
In fact, she cut $22 million (almost half the $55 million childcare budget) but with the help of a strong community campaign against the cuts, $7 million was restored in the most recent City quarterly update. Alongside all our community, I will continue to campaign to see the whole budget restored.
Available, affordable, quality childcare is essential to any community. It makes it possible for parents with small children to work, which isn’t just important for their current economic well-being but crucial for their superannuation and retirement. It makes a huge difference to children’s lives as well: early childhood education also builds resilience and coping skills. And it makes a huge difference to our economy, raising productivity and tax revenue in the short and the long term.
With the existing shortage only set to get worse with the Lord Mayor’s cuts, we are faced with the prospect of the future of Sydney being without children, where families are forced to move to villages outside the inner city in order to be closer to grandparents and family support.
That’s not the kind of city I want my two little boys to grow up in. I know that no city can thrive without its community, which is why Labor will keep fighting for the full budget to be restored so that early education and care can be both affordable and accessible for all in inner city Sydney.