Productivity Commission report highlights need for reform in Australia’s early childhood system

  • Report finds families facing difficulty accessing early childhood services due to availability and cost 
  • CPD welcomes many of the recommendations and highlights them as an important first step toward building a truly universal early childhood system
  • Final recommendations should be bold, ambitious to deliver on the government’s commitments

Friday 24 November 2023 – Today’s draft report from the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) adds to a growing evidence base that shows improving accessibility, affordability, quality and equity should be a top priority for government in reforming Australia’s early childhood system.

The report found that many families are facing difficulty accessing services due to lack of available spaces, high out-of-pocket costs and a lack of flexibility and inclusivity.

Included in its recommendations was for the Commonwealth Government to lead a coordinated effort to provide every child access to three days or 30 hours a week of high-quality ECEC, relaxing the activity test and increasing the Child Care Subsidy (CCS) rate to 100% for lower income families.

It also highlighted the need to address workforce issues by improving pay and conditions, as well as provide funding to address areas facing supply issues, particularly rural and remote communities.

The Centre for Policy Development (CPD) welcomed many of the recommendations, particularly those which were echoed in their submission to the Inquiry, and originally proposed as part of the Guarantee for children and families as outlined in 2021’s ‘Starting Better’ report.

Co-Chair of CPD’s Early Childhood Development Council Professor Leslie Loble AM said the draft report validates much of what experts in Australia and around the world have found.

“The evidence shows that children who get time with their parents early in life, support for their families through community services like health and childcare, and early education before they start school will go on to thrive throughout their lives.”

“But unfortunately this is not the experience many families have.”

“We encourage the Productivity Commission to be ambitious in its final recommendations to deliver on the government’s commitments to build a truly universal, high quality system Australian families

and children can rely on.”

Director of CPD’s Early Childhood Initiative Katherine Oborne said more will need to be done to build a better early childhood system in Australia.

“Creating this system will require more than increasing the child care subsidy, relaxing the activity test, and addressing market failure.”

“From a legislated entitlement, to new funding arrangements and rethinking where roles and responsibilities sit among the Commonwealth and States and Territories, the Productivity Commission should seize the opportunity to map out the kind of changes we need to build the system Australian children and families need and deserve.”

“Reforms need to be approached holistically – addressing all of these areas of the system in a coherent and coordinated way. All the reforms need to support each other and they can’t be done piecemeal if we want the system to work.”

“It’s not something that can happen overnight, but getting it right will mean we make Australia the best place to be a child and raise a family.”