When business leaders or legislators ask me why child care is a business issue, my only thought is, How is this not a business issue?
Last Friday, I participated in a webinar explaining the business connection to child care alongside the release of a new ReadyNation report: Want to Grow New York’s Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis. In the webinar, I discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic only reinforces our need to address systemic challenges in infant-toddler child care. Because we know that the current workforce suffers, and the workforce of the future will suffer, due to the state of child care.
For the workforce of today, the lack of quality child care, especially for children under age three, costs employees both productivity and peace of mind each year. Business leaders would often relate to me that gaps in child care cause employees to have lower productivity, tardiness, and lost work. The new ReadyNation report adds that employees’ productivity issues – that are solely due to infant-toddler child care challenges – cost employers $12.7 billion annually nationwide. Additionally, there are able-bodied adults staying home, caring for children, who would love to be in the workforce but are unable to do so. This is why 93 percent of the Cortland County Chamber’s members who responded to our recent survey are in favor of increasing the overall capacity of child care centers.
But productivity is not the only childcare-related issue for the workforce of today. Insufficient child care leads to a host of problems, leading to a net annual cost in New York of about $4.56 billion. It costs families due to lost earnings, it costs businesses due to reduced revenue and extra hiring costs, and it costs taxpayers due to lower tax revenues. Not to mention that – amidst the current COVID-19 crisis – insufficient child care could even cost lives if it’s unavailable for the essential workers who need the support.
To boost the workforce of the future, my mantra is that dollars spent early have a better return than dollars spent later. When business leaders were telling me that workforce development had become one of their top issues, I realized: if we don’t give children the best possible learning opportunities, they may not reach their potential. We know that early childhood care is key to children’s future success, due to the pace and nature of infants and toddlers’ brain development. Without widely available, quality child care, the workforce of the future would be less prepared, worsening our existing personnel challenges. This is precisely why the Cortland Chamber of Commerce decided to take child care on as a top priority issue.
To make children lifelong learners, and to give them the skills they need to one day succeed in the workforce, New York needs to make child care a legislative priority and to make child care centers accessible, affordable, and high-quality.
Let’s get to work repairing our child care system.