How much would it cost the government to raise spending on childcare subsidies to the average level in Scandinavia? Your guess is probably wrong. As a proportion of GDP, the UK government spends more on childcare subsidies than Finland, Norway and Iceland, and about as much as Sweden. The only country ahead of us on this count is Denmark.
So if high levels of public spending were the solution, the UK would be a beacon of family-friendliness. But according to a report by the Resolution Foundation in 2012, a family bringing in £53,924 a year would have to devote 40 per cent of its disposable income, after housing costs, to put two children under five in full-time childcare. OECD figures show British childcare is some of the most expensive in the world.
The problem is not a lack of demand-side subsidies, but an excess of supply-side regulation. This is why education minister Elizabeth Truss’s announcement yesterday that the government will relax restrictions (including allowing each childminder to look after more children) is a step in the right direction – albeit a timid one.
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