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‘The pay is absolute crap’: Child-care workers are quitting rapidly, a red flag for the economy
Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from The Washington Post
Heather Long | 19 September 2021
South Shore Stars’ early-childhood program in Weymouth, Mass., received zero applicants this summer for its preschool teacher positions. It was a big change from when Director Jennifer Curtis
was superintendent of a local school district and routinely had 200 people apply for elementary school jobs.
The problem, Curtis said, is that day care workers typically make about $12 an hour for a demanding job year-round. Public schools and other employers, which are also scrambling to hire workers, are poaching child-care staffers by offering thousands of dollars more a year and better benefits. A nearby Dunkin’ starts pay at
$14 an hour.
People tell Curtis they’ll come to South Shore Stars as a “last resort” if they can’t find anything else.
Hiring and retaining good workers has been tough in the child-care industry for years, but it is escalating into a crisis. Pandemic-fueled staffing challenges threaten to hold back the recovery, as the staffing problems at day cares have a ripple effect across the economy. Without enough employees, day cares are turning away children, leaving parents — especially mothers — unable to return to work.
Even the White House is concerned. In a report this past week, President Biden’s Treasury Department called the current child-care system “
unworkable,” with high costs for parents, low wages for employees and not enough spots for kids.
“Child care is a textbook example of a broken market,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a mother herself. She pointed out that families spend, on average, 13 percent of their income on child care for young kids, yet day care workers earn so little they rank in the bottom 2 percent of all professions. Biden has proposed the largest federal investment ever in child care in an effort to transform the sector.
“This is a crisis,” said Diane Barber, executive director of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association. “Parents are looking for child care, but now it’s this Catch-22. We don’t have the staff, so we can’t open the classrooms, so families can’t go back to work because they can’t find child care.”
The numbers are staggering: The child-care services industry is still down 126,700 workers — more than a 10 percent decline from pre-pandemic levels, Labor Department data shows. While many industries complain they can’t find enough workers, the hiring situation is more dire in child-care than in restaurants right now.
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