NZ childcare use near top of Unicef list

The Press 12 December 2008

Tens of thousands of Kiwi toddlers are being booked into childcare at world-leading rates and our world-lagging rates of paid parental leave are taking some of the blame. A new report by Unicef rates New Zealand 23rd out of 25 countries for effective paid parental leave. Kiwi parents get 14 weeks paid parental leave. The average in the rest of the developed world is approaching one year. The Unicef report also shows the childcare rates for the nation’s under-fives are among the highest in the world.

92% of three to six year olds were enrolled in early-childhood education (ECE) well ahead of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 68%. 45% of Kiwi women with a youngest child under the age of three were in employment. 32% of children under three were enrolled in ECE ahead of the OECD average of 24%.

Unicef New Zealand domestic advocacy manager Barbara Lambourn said it was worrying to see so many young children in childcare outside the home. “The economic pressures to return to work early are felt most by the poorest families, who have the least resources available to secure high-quality childcare,” Lambourn said. The report said today’s toddlers were the first generation in which a large majority were in childcare outside the home for long periods. New Zealand’s parental leave of 14 weeks rates far behind world leader Norway, where parents get 116 weeks of paid leave.