Why Economic Success is So Connected to Quality Childcare
Early childhood care and education are essential to the health, development and success of San Diegans and the regional economy.
Not only does quality childcare set our youngest residents up for success later in life, but it provides local businesses and working parents with more opportunities to grow – an important factor as we plan for the future of our regional economy.
But how are we doing as a region in San Diego County?
To better understand the need and the challenges that currently exist, The San Diego Foundation partnered with San Diego Workforce Partnership and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to commission two new reports that outline the regional landscape surrounding early childhood care and the economy.
As both reports revealed, San Diego employers are at a unique point in their overall growth.
Business Leaders Say: Providing Benefits For Working Parents Is Good Business
According to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce report, local business leaders are rethinking how they can best support working mothers and fathers. That’s because 55% of employers surveyed for the report indicate that their employees have been unable to work at one time or another because of childcare responsibilities. In addition, 35% of employers believe that providing additional benefits would be helpful to strengthen employee retention, talent acquisition, and overall productivity.
Longer parental leave, on-site childcare facilities, lactation rooms and more flexible work hours are all ways that San Diego employers are addressing the childcare challenge to better support their employees.
Childcare: Demand Outpaces Supply
Both reports also reveal just how complex this topic is and why it requires the support of all leaders from an array of sectors.
The San Diego Workforce Partnership report outlines four key barriers to overcome in order for all San Diego children to be set up for success later in life.
The research shows that childcare is hard to find for local parents because demand far outpaces the regional supply. According to the report, San Diego County has only 145,000 childcare spots available—yet as many as 335,000 children are in need of support. What’s even more challenging is that 66% of local families live within what’s called a “childcare desert,” a geographic area with fewer than three childcare facilities for every 10 children under age six.
Quality, Cost, and Convenience
With options limited for many families, childcare options can vary dramatically. Quality care is critical for a child’s development, but parents often settle for mediocre care when they can’t find or afford anything better. In other situations, it’s a deal breaker altogether.
As one Poway parent explained, “I know being a working mom is what is best for me, but given my struggle to find care that I truly trust and feel confident with, I wonder if it is the best thing for my daughter."
She is not alone either. The San Diego workforce is missing out on strong, skilled talent because parents are forced to decide between a career and childcare.
Convenience and timing is also a significant challenge that impacts the workforce. Many mothers and fathers must rearrange schedules daily and sacrifice work hours at the last minute, all to align with childcare hours. That’s made even more difficult for employees in industries with unpredictable and irregular work schedules, such as first responders, hospitality and health care workers.
Lastly, cost is a constant barrier for a large segment of families in San Diego. The high price of childcare coupled with the rising cost of housing, food, and transportation has created an affordability chasm in the region. It’s estimated that a large percentage of San Diego families earn too much to qualify for subsidies, but not enough to afford childcare expenses on their own.
The San Diego Workforce Partnership and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce reports demonstrate that the need for affordable, accessible childcare impacts all our communities.
The San Diego Foundation and San Diego Workforce Partnership are hosting an event at the University Club on January 30th to review the results of the study and engage in a dialogue with local business, government, and philanthropic leaders about how we can work together to pursue solutions that address this critical challenge.
This post was originally published by the San Diego Foundation.