One in four parents forced out of work or study due to childcare costs

A new survey shows nearly a quarter of UK parents are dropping out of work or education due to childcare costs, and that the UK fares worse than many other countries.

Nursery worker with child


One in four British parents are being forced to give up their job or drop out of education due to the high cost of childcare, according to a new survey.

Global children’s charity Theirworld questioned more than 7,000 parents and carers from the UK, Brazil, India, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Turkey and the US with children under the age of seven. The research found 23% of UK-based parents had either quit work or dropped out of their studies to avoid childcare costs, compared with 17% of their peers in Brazil, 16% in Turkey and 13% in Nigeria.

Some 74% of UK parents said they find it difficult to meet childcare costs, compared with 52% in India, 57% in the Netherlands, 59% in Nigeria, 68% in the US and Brazil, and 72% in Turkey.

TheirWorld have also launched the Act For Early Years campaign, which calls on governments to urgently prioritise spending on the early years. It cites scientific research which shows that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of five. 

Theirworld chair Sarah Brown, who is married to former UK prime minister Gordon Brown, wants governments to urgently prioritise spending on the early years. The survey has “laid bare the scale of the global early years crisis and its impact on children in rich and poor countries alike” and change is needed because “early years childcare is as essential to a country’s infrastructure as roads, hospitals and telecommunications”, she said.

She added: “Providing for children in their early years must be treated as a public good, not a private test of a family’s financial strength. Parents around the world should no longer be reduced to hoping for the best, crossing their fingers that the inadequate care they are often forced to use isn’t a risk to their child’s safety or their future prospects in life.

“We need to see a revolution for the early years that brings together governments, businesses, international agencies, parents, frontline workers, civil society, youth campaigners and grassroots groups to improve the lives of the world’s youngest children.”   

Neil Leitch, CEO of the Early Years Alliance, said the survey results were no surprise and highlighted how badly the UK fared against other countries. It called for greater funding of the childcare section and criticised the Budget statement on childcare. “Rather than listen to the sector on how best to solve the early years crisis, the Government has instead opted to introduce policies – such as the 30-hours-expansion – that will only serve to further cripple a sector already on its knees,” he said, adding: “It is absolutely vital, therefore, that, as government looks at how it will implement the proposals announced in last month’s Budget, it uses it as an opportunity to work with the sector to ensure it can survive the coming months and years.” 

Mandy Garner, editor of, said the survey was more proof of the damaging impact of high childcare costs on children and families. She stated: “Women – and it is still generally women – are forced to leave their jobs and studies due to the cost of childcare or to do jobs that are flexible enough to reduce their childcare costs, with a lifetime impact on earnings. Children begin school at a disadvantage and inequality widens as a result, with a long-term impact on the economy and on society as a whole. It makes no sense. Childcare is more than babysitting. The UK Government should invest properly in quality, affordable childcare as not only a basic economic infrastructure issue, but as a broader social good.”

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