Credit: Jacqueline Knights /

More childcare, fewer  children?

In response to calls by Conservative MPs Miriam Cates and Jacob Rees-Mogg for the Government to raise the dwindling birth rate by helping people to raise more children, journalist and TV presenter Nan Akua says that some MPs, ‘like Tory MP Danny Kruger, seem to think our reluctance to have children is down to the narcissism of the “me” generation, but the women I talk to are making practical decisions, shaped by the cost-of-living crisis, shortage of housing and student debt’, adding: ‘We all know bringing up children is tough.

When someone tells you they’re pregnant today, you might instinctively say “Congratulations!” but you’re probably also thinking “Wow, get ready for the financial hit”’.

She says that she herself could ‘no way … afford a child in my 20s. By the age of 37, I had bought two properties and sensibly saved enough money to live on’ but taking a year off work with her youngest child ‘set me back more than financially: it set me back ten years in my career. I had to fight to get back into the workplace – and that was tough.’

She says she is ‘still climbing out of the financial pit that childcare cast me into. I hired an au pair, which may sound like a luxury, but it was cheaper than nursery. At times, I was borrowing against one credit card to pay another.’

As a single parent, she says that especially for mothers like her, but ‘even for many couples … the cost of childcare is ruinous. We need a complete rethink of the way women are treated by the tax system and in the workplace environment.’

She points out that ‘[a]s things stand, parents who work more than 16 hours a week and earn less than £100,000 are entitled to 30 hours of free childcare a week for children aged three to four. And from April next year, some free childcare provision will be provided to younger children. That’s a start but we need to do much more.’

She suggests: ‘We fund schools. I’d like to see education extended to a fully funded provision of nurseries. We know children thrive in these settings: they become better-socialised and faster learners’ (Nana Akua: More children, Mr Rees-Mogg? What about the ruinous cost of childcare?’ Daily Mail, May 18 2023).

And yet all this ‘state’ sponsored childcare would have to be paid for by the taxpayer, meaning more taxation and more women deterred from having a second child, or even one. Somehow we have got to a situation where women, having been encouraged into the workforce as an ‘equality measure’ are unable to afford to give up even part of their paid work to have a family. They have been ‘freed’ from the home only to be chained to the desk.

From looking after their own children they must now attend to the needs of the boss. And missing from this debate are the 10 million children aborted over the last 50 years who, if allowed to be born, would by now have children who would themselves be old enough to have children.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a father of six, is right to call for more to be done to help people have more children, but he is wealthier than most. Ms Akua has become sufficiently financially stable to hire an au pair. We seem to have reached a stage in civilisation where only the better off can afford to look after their own children, while many less privileged women can only hope to look after the children of the rich.  It appears that the more childcare we have, the fewer children we can afford.

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