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New early childhood data reveal costs, quality concerns

Media Release
Mehreen Faruqi 2 Feb 2021

The median cost of childcare is the highest it’s ever been and there are worrying signs for service quality, according to new figures from the Productivity Commission. The new data also confirms that demand for early childhood education and care is higher than ever before.

The Greens say that this is a call to action for the Australian government to invest in universal, high-quality and fee-free early childhood education, and deal with the crisis facing early learning.

Greens education spokesperson Senator Mehreen Faruqi said:

“With costs higher than ever before, and more families’ income eaten up by expensive early learning fees, we need a new approach.

“Early learning costs in Australia are out of control. High fees make access harder, and limit choices for women, who have to give up study, career and work opportunities.

“There are worrying signs for service quality in this report, with breaches of the National Quality Framework and serious incidents on the rise. For years, early childhood educators and unions have been crying out to the government for more support to ensure high-quality, safe early learning, and keep up with demand.

“We must not only secure the place of early learning as an essential service in the eyes of the government, but expand public operation of childcare and lock in the right to free and universal childcare for all,” she said.


  • More children than ever before are accessing ECEC, with almost 800,000 in centre-based care. [Table 3A.15]
  • New high for average hours of attendance per week - 30.0 hours nationwide for centre-based care. [Table 3A.16]
  • Median weekly cost is up to $523 per week for 50 hours of CCS approved services nationwide. [Table 3A.22].
  • Out-of-pocket costs are increasing across the board, year-on-year [Table 3A.23, as compared to last year’s data].
  • Worrying signs for service quality:
    • Confirmed breaches of the National Quality Framework up to over 25,000 breaches or 182.3 per 100 services for centre based care for 2019-20. Up from 158.8 in 2018-19 and 155.3 per 100 services in 2017-18. [Table 3A.33]
    • Serious incidents per 100 services marginally higher as well. Up to 138.1 for centre-based care from 133.5 in 2018-19 [Table 3A.34]
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