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Relieving Child Care Burdens Can Boost Worker Opportunities

Access to childcare can be a significant barrier for parents—and especially women—in the workplace. Even when access isn’t the issue, cost can be. Child care is the biggest expense that parents face and the costs continue to rise.

The High Costs of Child Care

The Economic Policy Institute tracks the costs of child care and calculates its impact on families. For instance, in Minnesota, the average cost is $15,087 annually--$1341 a month. Minnesota, they report, is “one of 33 states and DC where infant care is more expensive than college.”

It is unaffordable for most families, representing 21.2% of a median family’s income in that state. And that’s for just one child.

A Potential Solution

The government is trying to do something about it. According to USA Today: “The Biden administration is requiring that microchip companies competing for a slice of $39 billion in federal incentives provide perhaps the biggest need for working parents: child care.” It’s a move that will take place through the CHIPS and Science Act.

The Act is designed to boost semiconductor research in the US, ensuring its leadership in this space. While America invented the semiconductor, it now produces only about 12% of the world’s supply, although it once produced 37%. East Asia produces 75% of the world’s semiconductors.

“In addition to child care, companies must provide workforce development plans, demonstrate sound financial models and show how their products will ‘advance U.S. economic and national security’.”

Impact on Women’s Job Opportunities

In the workplace women are impacted early in their careers as they seek to justify the high costs of child care against entry level wages. But, even as they advance in their careers, child care burdens often force them to make tough decisions.

This was especially true during the pandemic when they were three times more likely than fathers to bear the brunt of both childcare and housework, according to Lean In’s Women in the Workplace study. Three out of ten women considered downshifting their careers during the pandemic, they report.

These disparate impacts on women have been pointed to as one driver of pay inequities that have persisted for decades.

The Biden administration’s attempts to minimize childcare burdens for workers in an attempt to help staff investments in technology production may prove to be a solid starting point to minimize, and ultimately, eliminate these burdens.

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