Points of View

Why Childcare Matters to the Workforce

Kevin Stotts

The report referenced in this blog post can be found here from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

A recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce titled “Workforce of Today, Workforce of Tomorrow: The Business Case for High-Quality Childcare” outlines the increasing importance of quality childcare. The report reveals that today, nearly two-thirds of mothers with children under six years old work outside the home, meaning that they must rely on some form of childcare. In fact, many children today spend more time in childcare than they do in kindergarten—in some cases, “ten times more hours than a year of full-day pre-K.”

 

Impacting Two Generations of Workers at Once

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation explains that childcare is an issue which effects both current and future workers. Access to childcare is very influential in parents’ career decisions. At the same time, quality childcare helps shape tomorrow’s workers at the earliest stages of their learning.

Since young children are constantly learning both cognitive and non-cognitive skills, whatever activity they are engaged in should be considered “education,” no matter who they are with or where they might be. Learning non-cognitive skills—also known as “soft skills” or “employability skills”—is incredibly important to children in their future careers. These are skills that children begin learning early, and that they must possess by the time they begin K-12 education. As the report reveals, “low-quality early environments, lacking adequate cognitive and non-cognitive stimulation, lead to deficits that children often never overcome.”

Current workers are also highly effected by the availability and cost of childcare. Access to high-quality childcare improves productivity, as it “reduces a major barrier to getting people into the workforce.” A 2015 survey of parents in Louisiana revealed that one in six had left their full-time jobs because of lack of childcare and one in thirteen had been fired. Similarly, another study found that 80% of parents at one company said that available childcare was influential in their decision to take a job.

In February, Talent 2025 published a report summarizing research we have conducted into the reasons for a historic low in West Michigan’s percentage of adults 25-54. It identified childcare, as well as transportation and a lack of education and skills as the three primary reasons.

Finally, the issue of childcare impacts the number of adults who can gain the skills they need to be qualified for jobs sought. Over a quarter of all college students are also raising children, and among them only 27% graduate after six years.

 

What Can Employers Do?

It is important that employers become active with local organizations to improve childcare for both current and future workers. Employers can help by becoming active in innovating childcare access.

Talent 2025 is working to identify ways for employers to support access to childcare through its Workforce Development Working Group. One area of focus is the emerging interest among employers to cover a portion of child care costs or provide a child care on site as a non-uniform benefit. Employers can consider getting involved with the Working Group or learning more by reading the latest Workforce Development Report