Childcare Challenges Persist as Parents Return to Work Amid COVID-19

October 14, 2020

New report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation finds an increase in parents requiring alternative childcare arrangements and many making permanent career decisions based on temporary solutions during the pandemic

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation today released a new report, "Piecing Together Solutions: Returning to Work and the Childcare Dilemma," outlining how childcare challenges are affecting working parents amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The report examines how working parents are struggling to adapt to the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic, including difficulties navigating alternative childcare arrangements and online K-12 learning.

"From the beginning of the pandemic, COVID-19 has disrupted working parents' carefully designed childcare arrangements and forced them to scramble for solutions," said Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. "Now, more than six months into the pandemic, working parents continue to experience similar, and sometimes even increasing, difficulties in balancing both work and their families' childcare needs."

The report builds upon previous studies of parents, employers, and childcare providers that the Chamber Foundation conducted in the spring and summer of 2020. It shows that many parents have yet to find a stable solution for their childcare needs. In an August survey of parents, 63 percent anticipated needing to change their childcare arrangement in the next year, up from 60 percent in a June 2020 survey. Thirty-three percent of parents are using family members or friends for childcare, compared to 28 percent in June.

Additional key findings from the study include:

  • Lack of childcare is a main barrier to returning to work. Fifty percent of parents who have not yet returned to the workforce cite childcare as a reason.  
  • Limited childcare options add a financial burden for parents. As childcare programs struggle to stay in business with limited capacity, many programs are asking parents to pay a fee to hold their spot in hopes of surviving this crisis without significant outside investment. Consequently, 26 percent of working parents are paying for a childcare arrangement that they are not currently using.
  • K-12 school decisions have a significant impact. Many school districts are still making re-opening decisions, which have a significant impact on the workforce; 57 percent of parents who have not yet returned to work (22 percent of all parents) are unlikely or unsure whether they will return if their school district adopts online learning.

Accompanying the study, the Chamber Foundation produced a video of conversations with working parents discussing how the pandemic has impacted their childcare and working situations.

This report is part of a series of studies to better understand how childcare challenges are affecting working parents and their employers during the pandemic. New data will be released over the next several months as key decisions are made on re-opening schools and the economy. To sign up for updates or to learn more about the U.S. Chamber Foundation's work on early childhood education, visit www.uschamberfoundation.org/early-childhood-education.

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About the U.S. Chamber Foundation 
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is dedicated to strengthening America's long-term competitiveness. We educate the public on the conditions necessary for business and communities to thrive, how business positively impacts communities, and emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.  

About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business organization representing companies of all sizes across every sector of the economy. Our members range from the small businesses and local chambers of commerce that line the Main Streets of America to leading industry associations and large corporations.
They all share one thing: they count on the U.S. Chamber to be their voice in Washington, across the country, and around the world. For more than 100 years, we have advocated for pro-business policies that help businesses create jobs and grow our economy.