Idris is not quite awake when his mother Yasmin picks him up from childcare in the afternoon. He just turned two years old and feels comfortable in the day care center – fortunately. Because in the USA there is neither statutory maternity protection nor parental leave.
For this reason, children often come to daycare at just a few months old. And that costs. Mother Yasmin was shocked when she found out how expensive her son's care would be: "I really had no idea." She remembers:
Childcare for the little ones up to the age of one year costs between $2,700 and $3,000 a month, she says – "more than the monthly rate for the house," says Yasmin. 3000 dollars: This currently corresponds to around 3000 euros. Yasmin and her husband have to pay this sum every month.
It is most expensive in Massachusetts
When it comes to childcare, Yasmin and her husband have chosen the worst possible – because most expensive – place in the USA: Boston in Massachusetts. The state charges the highest fees nationwide.
But childcare is also extremely expensive elsewhere in the US. On average, a family has to spend almost a quarter of their income on the day-care center – mind you for one child.
In the USA, parents are on their own until the state-funded school career begins with preschool around the age of five. Funding is limited – for low-income families. And precisely because there are almost no state funds, it is only just enough for the day-care centers to survive.
Pandemic as a fire accelerator
The same applies to the employees. Educators are among the lowest paid workers in the country. When Corona came and with it several lockdowns, many of them decided to stop altogether.
The pandemic acted like a fire accelerator, says author and education expert Elliot Haspel. "Many other low-wage industries, like fast-food stores, have increased hourly wages to $16 or $17 and offer benefits, like health insurance. Childcare is $12 — often with no other benefits."
call for government funding
The sector is also a problem for the economy. Companies cannot afford to lose well-trained employees because, for cost reasons, they take on childcare themselves and stay at home. After all, some offer their employees to take over part of the daycare costs. That's nice, says education expert Haspel. But:
The US spends the third-lowest percentage of its gross domestic product on early childhood education of any industrialized nation, Haspel said. "Only 0.3 percent – the target would be one percent."
New Mexico is progressing
Invest more money: The state of New Mexico wants to dare. He recently decided that childcare should be free for most families. In the meantime, some states are at least considering better childcare. Also in Massachusetts.
Until something like this happens, Yasmin and her husband will have to put their family planning on hold: "There's no way we can have two children in care at the same time, we can't afford that," she says. She and her husband wanted a second child, she thinks. "But then it's over."