30 hours of free childcare in Jeremy Hunt’s budget could bring real change | Torsten Bell

Jeremy Hunt gave us his “back to work” budget last week. A £1billion gift to those whose pensions are worth more than £1million proved the main point of the Westminster controversy.

But there is more likely to be talk nationwide of the £5billion offer to working parents of 30 hours of free childcare for children aged nine months and over.

The aim is to see more parents (mainly mothers) of young children at work. Will it work? Most think it’s intuitive that subsidized childcare means more parents can afford to work, but the evidence hasn’t always been clear. Offering free childcare to parents who are already employed may cause them to cut back on work because they are now better off.

An article from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, co-authored by one of my Resolution Foundation colleagues, Mike Brewer, offers some reason for optimism. It shows that free childcare offers make a difference to maternal employment when they are full-time rather than part-time – as is the case here.

The government’s official forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, draws its optimism from this research, estimating that the new policy will boost employment by 60,000. is only part of the puzzle that underlies the increase in female employment, as well as the increase in the number of women going to university and the slow death of patriarchy. The results can be significant.

In 1997, only 40% of single parents were working when their child was three years old. Now it’s 60%. For mothers in a couple, this increase rose from about 65% to nearly 80%. This translates to more than 500,000 mothers of children under five working today. No matter how much policy change, it is real social and economic change in action.

Torsten Bell is CEO of the Resolution Foundation. Read more on resolutionfoundation.org

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