Australian business leaders call for childcare reform.

CEW has long advocated for improved early childhood education and care (ECEC) affordability to increase primary care givers’ (particularly women) opportunities to work and grow their household income and superannuation, while Australian businesses benefit from improved access to a broader pool of experienced talent.

CEW members are calling for more affordable childcare to be prioritised in the upcoming 2020 federal budget. This will stimulate increased workforce participation and productivity and provide a much-needed lever for Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dowload CEW’s Media Release on Childcare

Download CEW’s Pre-Budget Submission

Download CEW’s Childcare Advocacy Paper (September 2020)

Wendy McCarthy AO, Past President CEW
‘No longer do we or should think of the care of children 0-5 as baby sitting. These are crucial years in a child’s development and great nations understand and value the long-term benefit of providing quality early learning. In today’s world most families need two incomes and Australia needs women to work and lift our economy. The deal is simple- women and their families require the support of government to return to work if they wish, secure in the knowledge their children will have affordable quality care and their work will be rewarded appropriately. Let’s do it!’

Debby Blakey CEO, HESTA
‘Women retire on average with 40% less super than men. This makes women more vulnerable to poverty later in life. Tragically, women over the age of 55 are the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia. And a key contributor to this inequity in retirement is that women bear the brunt of our outdated childcare funding arrangements. Our mothers, sisters and daughters deserve better. It’s why HESTA is committed to pushing for childcare reform – so that we can all get back to paid work at this critical time as we emerge from the COVID crisis, and women can have the dignity in retirement that they deserve’.

Rebecca McGrath, Chairman Oz Minerals Ltd
‘If we are truly ‘all in the this together’ then why are so many Australian women excluded from economic opportunity due to the lack of universal, affordable childcare? Now is the time to take action and create a productivity boost to the Australian economy that everyone will benefit from’.

Betty Ivanoff, Group Director – Legal & Corporate Affairs, Coca-Cola Amatil Limited
‘Now more than ever with our economy and workforce facing unprecedented challenge, reform to the cost structure, and access to childcare is vital, in order to encourage and bolster workforce participation for women in all sectors. This is critical to the sustainability of households, and to the recovery and long-term foundation of our businesses and our economy. Childcare must move from being a barrier, to an enabler for workforce participation’.

Debra Hazelton, Chair, AMP Limited
‘Accessibility to affordable childcare for under school-age children is fundamental to the full participation of women in Australia’s workforce. The benefits are clear: enhanced opportunity fulfilment for families; increased household discretionary spend; accelerated job creation; and greater workplace productivity’.

Kate Carnell AO, Australian Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman
‘Nearly 40% of small businesses are owned by women. Many of these women have young families. SMEs have been affected more than any other sector by the COVID crisis. If we want these businesses to survive, women owners need access to low cost or free childcare so they can focus on saving and growing their enterprises’.

Dr Kirstin Ferguson Deputy Chair, Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Author, Women Kind
‘For all the rhetoric we hear about wanting to see increased workforce participation for women, it is meaningless unless there is a systemic change to the way Australia’s childcare system operates. The Government needs to use every lever at their disposal to avoid the rapidly approaching “pink recession” and childcare reform is front and centre to that challenge.

Annette Kimmitt AM, CEO and Managing Partner, MinterEllison
‘For too long, childcare costs have been a barrier to women’s workforce participation in Australia, particularly impacting women’s ability to work full-time.  If we are to recover strongly from the Covid-19 crisis, we must enable highly capable, experienced women from all walks of life to participate more fully in the workforce.  The evidence is clear – full participation by women is essential to unlocking the full potential of business, will strengthen household discretionary spending and ultimately lead to the creation of more jobs.  We must move urgently to ensure the cost of childcare is removed as a structural barrier to unlocking Australia’s full potential’.

Jo Hogan Founder & co-CEO of MECCA Brands
‘We need to remove the barriers that prevent so many incredible and talented women from participating in work at the level of their choice. Providing accessible, low-cost childcare is a great place to start’.

Gillian Franklin, Founder and Managing Director, The Heat Group
‘With one child in childcare 3 days a week, costing my daughter $330 per week, they are effectively paying off the mortgage of a house they don’t own.  We need to use this cash more wisely to stimulate the economy”. “Having one childcare worker at an accessible cost enables 11 mothers to go to work stimulating the economy…Let’s get serious about unlocking this capability’.

Catherine Tanna, EnergyAustralia Managing Director

‘Every dollar matters as Australia rebuilds from the COVID pandemic. We will have to be smart and use every economic lever we can get. Childcare is part of the challenge’.

Nicola Forrest AO Co-Chair Minderoo Foundation 
‘Investment into an accessible childcare and early learning system will return a triple dividend: it will improve early learning outcomes for Australian children, increase workforce participation of women, and have long-term productivity gains by contributing to a more skilled workforce’.

Jeanne Johns, MD & CEO Incitec Pivot Limited
‘Working parents need a childcare system that supports them to increase their working hours if they choose, not one that leaves them worse off financially. A more affordable and accessible childcare system makes business sense and will be vital during this period of economic recovery to help parents take on new employment opportunities and increase work hours. It provides an opportunity to increase workforce participation, use underutilised skills and continue to progress our broader social agenda of inclusion for all’.

Sarah Hunter, Officeworks Managing Director
‘As a mum of three children, two under the age of three and one in primary school, I’ve experienced firsthand the challenges of raising a family whilst balancing a career. I know how much it means to have the appropriate support around you. As an employer of thousands of talented parents across the country, I believe more affordable, accessible childcare is necessary because of the value these team members bring to our business. The careers of highly capable experienced women and men should not be set back because they’re unable to fully participate in the workforce due to increasing childcare costs. Equally, our children materially benefit from the educational and social experience of childcare’.

Liz Dibbs, Chair of United Way Australia

‘The best investment we can make is in our children’s education and we know this must start with quality early learning and childcare. By making this easier to access and financially viable for families, not only will we see our children reach their full potential, we will see parents, particularly women, able to engage fully in the workforce and their businesses. This is essential not only for recovery but for Australia to reach its full productive potential’.

Lisa O’Brien, CEO, The Smith Family
‘Ensuring all children have equal access to quality early childhood services makes sound economic sense in the short and long term. It is key to improving their long term educational and employment success. Providing universally accessible early learning and care has been proven to support these outcomes and will enable more women to participate in the workforce, providing productivity benefits for our nation’.

Kathleen Bailey-Lord FAICD, Non-Executive Director 
‘How would you like $2 for every $1 you invested? That’s exactly the deal that govt gets for investment in childcare as demonstrated in the Front Project/PWC research into early childcare. As we contemplate the road to a sustainable economic recovery for all Australians, this is a no-brainer? That’s before we even consider issues of equity – both socioeconomic and gender’.

Melanie Sanders, Senior Partner, Bain & Company
‘Affordable childcare is an essential requirement to enable women to participate fully in the workforce and contribute to our national productivity – it has never been more urgent, given Australia’s current economic challenges’.

Angela Skandarajah, Chief Executive Officer, Development Victoria
‘Women have been disproportionally impacted by the COVID crisis. As we face the challenges of the post-pandemic recovery, a critical factor in both redressing the inequity and contributing to economic growth will be enabling an increase in female workforce participation. The government must facilitate this through meaningful support of the childcare sector, through increased investment in the quality and number of places and through financial subsidies to enable women to have a real choice about increasing their work hours’.

Melanie Evans, Head of Retail, ING Australia 
We know the maths. For many families, the cost of childcare means going back to work after baby can cost the family budget, not add to it. If we want economic inclusion, if we want more Australians participating in a modern workforce and we want gender equality in the workplace – we have to make childcare both more affordable and more accessible’.


Barbara Cail AO, Chairman, Rala Information Services Pty Ltd.
‘Free childcare is not a cost, it is an investment. We need intense focus to rebuild the Australian economy. By liberating women from childcare costs, their accumulated education, talents, skills, and experiences can be re-invested.  Treasury is capable of creating a budget which can offset the cost of free childcare:  increased income tax will flow from women’s employment and overall increased productivity’. 

Kate Aitken
‘Accessible and affordable childcare is an essential enabler for Australian families to thrive and prosper.  The current childcare system is misaligned to its purpose and intent, unable to provide adequate service to meet its constituents needs and disproportionately impacts working women’.

Nicolette Rubinsztein, Non-Executive Director
‘Affordable childcare is critical to ensure women stay in the workforce, which supports us achieving financial independence, which in turn will deliver a gender equal society. And we will all be happier!’

Jude Munro, Chair, Victorian Planning Authority
‘With 100% of our employees currently working from home, easy and affordable access to childcare is crucial for a large proportion of our employees’.

Jude Munro Board Chair, Uniting Vic Tas

‘So many of our 2400 employees normally use childcare but, in this environment, it is very difficult to access affordable and accessible childcare. We want the Federal Government to ensure that women can participate fully in the workforce’.

Teresa Dyson, Non-Executive Director
‘There is no greater impact on productivity than getting new parents back into the workforce. Costs of childcare are prohibitive and are the biggest restraint on encouraging new parents, and primarily new mothers, back into the workforce. Without significant reform that recognises the cost pressures on new families through direct compensation, or policy reform that acknowledges the true cost to income impact of childcare through a real tax deduction or rebate, our productivity aspirations will not be met’.

Thérèse Rein
‘I think childcare should be tax deductible’.

Karen Lonergan, Group Executive – People and Culture, Stockland
‘Australia needs affordable, accessible childcare. This is necessary to business productivity.  Australian business has made a significant investment in a young woman’s career by the time she takes parental leave.  To get a return on that investment, business needs her to return to work and thrive at work.  She won’t do that if she sees the majority of her pay check going toward childcare fees. The equation won’t work for her, where remaining at work means high levels of stress and exhaustion in exchange for relatively little pay. I’ve seen too many mothers of young children unable to make the equation work and decide to stay at home.  The equation must change.

‘At Stockland we support gender equality. We know that gender balanced leadership delivers better company performance, improved productivity, and greater profitability. The cost of childcare in Australia is high and this results in many women choosing to work 2 or 3 days a week instead of 4 or 5. We would be in a position to further leverage the benefits of gender diversity in Australia if disincentives for second earners to work were lowered. It is important all genders are able to contribute equally to their household incomes, workplaces and to the economy. We support the provision of affordable, quality childcare to foster gender equality and as a key enabler of economic productivity and growth, particularly as we enter the post Covid-19 recovery period’.


Shelley Reys AO, CEO, Arrilla Indigenous Consulting, Partner, KPMG
‘It’s a ‘no brainer’.  Accessible, low cost childcare is critical to unleashing economic productivity. In a time of #COVID19 there is no better time to act quickly and use the data to inform change’.


Sue Murray, Managing Director, Zero Suicide Institute of Australasia (ZSIA)
‘Contributing to work, family and their wider community is beneficial from many perspectives, but most importantly it benefits mental health. Providing opportunity for all women to participate fully in the workforce will contribute to valuable early learning opportunities for children, strengthen the workforce and build economic prosperity. Free childcare will provide all women with choice to participate fully in their work-life, home-life, and community-life’.

Michaela Healey, Director

‘Unfortunately, few current political leaders in Australia truly appreciate the trade-offs within families that inhibit females being able to undertake full time work once they have children.  If we are going to increase productivity in Australia and create a more equal opportunity for the advancement of women childcare must be more affordable and accessible’.

Fiamma Morton, Group Executive- Business Bank, Bank of Queensland
‘Childcare is always a hot topic of conversation amongst my friends and working mums and dads. COVID-19 has only reinforced how invaluable and essential our childcare system is to both our children and their learning, as well as to the economy.

 ‘As a working parent and female business leader, I am an advocate of increasing participation of women in the workforce and understand how essential it is to support working families.

The case for a more affordable, accessible, flexible, and universal childcare system is now urgent and too strong for policymakers to ignore. Right now, we need to be growing our economy and encouraging more women back into the workforce is a key to successful economic recovery.  

 ‘We cannot afford to disregard the fact the cost of childcare is a barrier to Australian families and workforce participation of women. Childcare is an enabler and is critical to strengthening Australia’s recovery and future productivity.


‘This change is a long time coming and vital for our country’s future. Let us help drive this change. #strongerwithchildcare’.

Louise Adams, Chief Executive – Australia & New Zealand, Aurecon

‘I strongly believe that lowering the cost of childcare would bring extensive and transformational change to this country and would create opportunities for greater workforce participation, particularly for women who provide the majority of care. It would address the already evident and disproportionate negative impacts of COVID-19 on women and would provide one of the necessary foundations for our economic recovery’.

Edwina McCann

‘As a mother of twins and someone who juggles the work-family balance, I am extremely passionate about this issue. In 2013, I attended a lunch with the then Shadow Minister for Employment Retention, Childcare and Early Childhood Learning Susan Ley and female CEO’s.


‘Along with Louise McBride, we advocated for urgent policy change and it compelled me to raise this topic on panels and lobby for tax reform. When my twins were two, I paid to return to work. We would have made other decisions and I would have given up if my husband had not been able to subsidise me then. I was in a privileged position and I considered myself fortunate, but that’s just wrong. Now almost ten years later these challenges remain.


‘I promised my staff that I would help change things for them and it would not be the same for them. Yet nothing has happened and now with COVIDI fear what the future may hold.  So, I pledge to support more full-time roles for working mothers and mums to be, but for this to happen the government needs to action affordable childcare and tax incentives.  We need to advocate for change and remedy the difficult and troubling barriers for women and families’.

Vanessa Torres, Chief Technical Officer, South32

‘In the Resources sector in Australia, affordable and accessible childcare is essential to enable parents to work. Childcare today is an additional cost for employees, and the current taxation arrangements have not kept up to date with current models for providing childcare and don’t provide flexibility, leaving productive women and men to stay at home rather than contribute to the economy.  In particular, affordable childcare plays a critical role in elevating women’s participation in the workforce, helping narrow the gender pay gap. The current Fringe Benefits Tax exemption for employer-provided childcare should be expanded to cover all childcare provided by employers not just when the childcare is provided on the employer’s premises. This would reflect the many different ways that people choose to use childcare services’.

Diane Weir, Chair, Ai-Media

‘The COVID-19 crisis has shown that neither business, nor Australian society as a whole, can really succeed without affordable and accessible childcare.  We cannot be a smart, inclusive, or effective society without making sure that everyone can participate in our economy, and that includes people with caring responsibilities.  Excluding women from full economic participation is not only unjust, it is economically irresponsible.’