The TUC says childcare costs for under 2s have risen by 44% since 2010, while statutory maternity pay has fallen by 3% in real terms.
The cost of childcare for parents with children under two has increased by more than £2,000 a year since 2010, according to new analysis published by the TUC.
The analysis shows that nursery fees for under 2s have risen by £185 a month – or £2,200 a year – since the Conservatives took office. The average annual nursery bill for a family with a child under 2 was £4,992 in 2010. In 2021, it had risen to £7,212 – an increase of 44 per cent, says the TUC.
According to the OECD, the UK now has the second highest childcare costs among leading economies. A TUC poll of working parents with pre-school children – published in March – revealed that one in three (32%) spend more than a third of their wages on childcare.
The TUC estimates that parents of children under 2 have to work 9.4 hours a week on average just to be able to cover 25 hours per week of childcare at nursery. This is up from 8.7 hours per week in 2010.
The TUC says that many parents with pre-school children are caught in a “catch 22” with mums forced to come off maternity leave due to low rates of maternity pay, only to find themselves facing very high childcare costs. The TUC says statutory maternity pay has fallen by 3 per cent in real terms since 2010.
The TUC is calling for an urgent cash boost for the childcare sector – like the financial help given to transport networks – to give childcare workers better wages as well as a long-term funding settlement to make sure childcare is affordable and available for families.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady says: “Childcare should be affordable for all. But parents are spending a massive chunk of their pay packets on childcare bills, while their wages stagnate.
“This is putting huge pressure on family budgets at the same time as other living costs are shooting up. New mums are caught in a catch 22. The UK’s miserly rate of statutory maternity pay means many are under financial pressure to return work early and are then at the mercy of sky-high childcare fees.
“We urgently need to get wages rising to stop households drowning in bills.”
She adds: “The government has done little to support the childcare sector – even when nurseries were forced to close during the pandemic.
“Cutting staffing ratios is the last thing we need. It would just put more pressure on underpaid and undervalued childcare workers.
“We need a proper funding settlement for early-years childcare that delivers decent pay and conditions for the workforce and high-quality care.”