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Childcare fees now rival private school tuition

Childcare fees in Brisbane are now as high, if not higher, than the city’s most expensive and exclusive private schools – and parents are struggling to cope.

The most expensive childcare centres in Brisbane include River City World of Learning in the inner city, which charges $125 per day for babies (discounted by $2 per day for five days), according to a report by The Courier Mail.

For full-time care, this amounts to more than $30,000, minus the $7,500 government subsidy.

Meanwhile, Brisbane Grammar School, one of Brisbane’s most expensive and exclusive schools, charged $23,180 for year 12 tuition this year. Brisbane Girls Grammar School’s tuition was $21,700.

Of course, none of this is news to parents in Sydney, where childcare fees are routinely as high as $150 per day – in the suburbs as well as the inner city.

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Bianca, a financial planner based in Sydney, is currently navigating the childcare maze after having her first child earlier this year.

With over a decade of corporate experience, she negotiated six months of maternity leave with her employer and will soon return to work full-time, but her childcare options are exorbitant.

At $165 per day, in a childcare centre based in the CBD (where she lives and works), it will amount to a whopping $42,900 annually for childcare. Even once her $7,500 government entitlement is factored in, she’ll still need to find more than $35,000 annually in after-tax dollars to cover her childcare fees.

“It’s extraordinarily expensive, especially when this is for just one child!” she says. “I can’t imagine how much it would cost if we have another baby. In that case, our only realistic option would be to hire a nanny for around $250 per day – or $65,000 a year.” 

While Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane can command well above $100 per day, childcare centres in regional towns are generally much lower. Clearly, where you live has a huge impact on the amount you’ll pay in childcare fees.

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For instance, Kids Academy at Spring Hill, Brisbane, charges $115 per day, but its counterpart at Hope Island on the Gold Coast levies fees of between $80-$89 per child.

The average daily fee for long day care in WA is estimated to be about $85 (up to $150 in Perth), while at more remote childcare facilities, in towns such as Gumeracha in South Australia, daily rates can be as low as $65.

The benchmark price that the Federal Government’s Productivity Commission uses for its funding model is between $72 and $74 per day, depending on the child’s age, which is substantially lower than the actual prices being paid for childcare in most Australian cities.

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Proposed childcare reforms under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott may not go ahead as planned under Malcolm Turnball’s leadership, although Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said he was committed to implementing a new, almost $40 billion childcare package from July 1, 2017.

So in the meantime, what are parents to do?

  • Consider hiring a nanny.
  • Share care with another family.
  • Add an au pair to your family.
  • If you work full-time, consider flex hours like working four longer days instead of five 8-hour days.
  • Split the load with your partner.

What is the cost of childcare where you live? Do you think it’s affordable? Tell us in the comments section below.

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