Employment and childcare: Introduction

Publication date: 27 Jan 2006 | Publication type: National Institute Economic Review | Theme: Trade, Investment & Productivity, Employment & Social policy | NIESR Author(s): Rolfe, H | Journal: National Institute Economic Review No. 195

Summarised from the National Institute Economic Review, number 195, January 2006. To order a the full version of this article or a subscription, please contact Sage Publications by telephone: +44 (0) 20 7324 8701, email: <a href="mailto:subscriptions@sagepub.co.uk">subscriptions@sagepub.co.uk</a> or online at <a href="http://ner.sagepub.com">http://ner.sagepub.com</a>.

<ul><li>Farewell to childcare, Peter Moss</li>

<li>Childcare and mothers' employment: approaching the millennium, Kirstine Hansen, Heather Joshi and Georgia Verropoulou</li>

<li>Where are the men? Gender segregation in the childcare and early years sector, Heather Rolfe</li>

<li>Stability and change in childcare and employment: evidence from the United States, Cynthia Miller</li></ul>

In the forthcoming issue of the National Institute Economic Review, to be published on Friday 27th January 2006, we publish four articles from world experts on the topic of employment and childcare:

The Government is right to emphasise the importance of skills and training in the childcare and early years workforce, according to research published by the National Institute of Economic Research (NIESR). Without opportunities for training and career development the sector will face increasing difficulties in attracting recruits of the calibre and motivation to provide quality care. At the same time, parents look at the quality of care in weighing up the benefits and costs of working.

The green paper, Every Child Matters and the Children Act 2004 have been the main drivers of change, leading to the Children's Workforce Strategy. This addressed skills, qualifications and training issues raised in the children act. The recent Childcare Bill aims to integrate childcare and early years more closely to improve outcomes for children.

Peter Moss, writing in the National Review, argues it is time to move beyond talking about and providing 'childcare', a narrow and divisive approach to services for children, to a holistic and integrated approach, which includes but is not limited to providing care for working parents' children. He describes how a number of countries - including the Nordic states, but also New Zealand - have made or are making this change, getting beyond childcare to what he terms a pedagogical approach. England has begun to change, but faces major obstacles, both entrenched ways of thinking and outmoded structures such as a split workforce. The pedagogical approach, he argues, requires "complete restructuring of the workforce, based around a new profession, and a massive revaluation of early years work reflected in greatly enhanced levels of training and pay".

Despite Government efforts to attract men to the sector and increasing involvement of fathers in childcare at home, very few men work in the childcare sector. Heather Rolfe, reporting on research for the Equal Opportunities Commission, states that male childcare workers can improve the quality of care for children by making childcare settings more like real life. She argues that a more diverse workforce brings different experiences and skills and provides evidence that parents would welcome more men in childcare. Despite the undoubted benefits, the barriers are seen as considerable, and include the stereotype of childcare as 'women's work'. Dr Rolfe presents evidence that young men are more resistant to the idea of working in childcare than older men, and argues that schools and careers advisers should encourage young men to consider non-traditional choices. Older men may be easier to recruit, particularly those in their 50s and 60s with experience of caring for their own children and grandchildren, yet ageist attitudes among childcare employers mean that this age group is over-looked. She believes there is a pressing need for change:

'The last 10 years have seen a sea change in men's role in the family and their relationship with their children, yet the childcare workforce remains a female ghetto. This cannot continue if plans to expand provision to all young children are to be met. They key to attracting quality workers, both men and women, is to increase the opportunities for training and qualifications, and of course pay.'

Other papers in the Review, by Kirstine Hansen and colleagues at the Institute of Education, and Cynthia Miller in New York, remark on continued use by many parents of informal childcare arrangements, such as care by relatives. This is explained by factors including the cost of much formal childcare, particularly private nurseries, concerns about quality and the need for flexibility. If parents are to be encouraged to use childcare, to take up employment and increase the family income these concerns must continue to be addressed by the Government. The NIESR review papers suggest that training, qualifications and a choice of provision to suit parents' working arrangements are the key to this.