Headlines: January 24th, 2005

A new report says that for most of the growing number of women who go out to work, organising childcare is a highly complicated process in which the slightest disruption can cause a crisis. The report from the Economic and Social Research Council says that for people living in cities pre-school arrangements, even for the well-off, typically involve three or four different types of regular care and it says current policies are out of touch with modern realities.The report follows a study led at University College, London, by Professor Linda McDowell. It says childcare involves careful scheduling in time and travel. For many families jobs have become increasingly insecure, temporary or casual, and the hours demanded have either increased or become less regular in terms of day and night shifts and the working week. At the same time the growing dominance of low-paid service sector work has made it increasingly difficult for people relying on a single wage to have reasonable living standards. That has forced many working class couples to have two or more jobs in order to survive.

This study looked at who did what in the home when both partners are working and how childcare was arranged and managed when parents worked shifts. It focused on younger families in London and Manchester. The report says it is clear that current policies fail to take the complexity of the modern situation into account.

Professor McDowell said: “We need to think about the ways in which different forms of care might be made more compatible and accessible, whether in terms of hours of provision, costs, or location in a neighbourhood. For many of those we interviewed, cost as well as quality is a key issue. High quality care is expensive, especially in London, and there are implications in this not only for individual parents but for those who offer a service.”