The era of 9-5 child care is ending as parents’ needs shift

Parents are increasingly looking for tailor-made, patchwork childcare arrangements that reflect the ways in which their own workplace realities have changed.

The big picture: The shift away from 9-5 daycare and toward “configurable” arrangements—perhaps a nanny two days a week, and other arrangements for the rest—is a response to both the reality of hybrid work and the rising cost of childcare.

By the numbers: 51% of American parents say they will spend more than 20% of their income on child care this year—well above the 7% the federal government defines as “affordable”—according to a survey first provided to Axios .

  • In 2019, only 31% of parents said they spend that much.
  • Higher costs are driving long-term changes in how and where childcare takes place.

“It’s a big sea change, it’s significant,” CEO Tim Allen told Axios. “Families come looking for childcare that they can work into the new world order” of fluid work-from-home schedules.

  • “They no longer need the 9-5 babysitter or 9-5 day care,” he said. “They need two days a week, or they need someone to pick the kid up from school and then stay for a few hours while they’re at work.”

UrbanSitter sees the same trends, plus an increase in families pooling resources for babysitters — which has become known as a “pod” during the pandemic.

  • More families are “trying to find a single care provider who can guarantee them a minimum number of hours per week, but have some flexibility within that,” UrbanSitter co-founder and CEO Lynn Perkins tells Axios.
  • “Parents say, ‘Hey, I need at least four afternoons a week in this time frame, but I’m somewhat flexible,'” she added.

Manage the news: In its 9th annual Cost of Care Survey, found that weekly babysitting rates rose 23% during the pandemic — to a national average of $694 for one child, up from $565 in 2019.

  • At the same time, after-school childcare rates rose 7% to a national average of $261 per week.
  • Child care center rates rose 5% to $226 a week – if you can find one with availability.
  • “This is an economic issue, not just for families, but for all Americans,” Allen told Axios. “With less disposable income to spend on other goods and services and more deployed for childcare, families are just trying to make ends meet.”

Yes, but: Home child care and daycare centers are a rare luxury for many working Americans—especially those who don’t have the option of working from home.

  • For them, patchwork care is still the norm – and their arrangements are often more tenuous than the nannies commonly hired online.

Between the lines: Rate increases attract more qualified babysitters and babysitters to the field: Former teachers, daycare workers, tutors, occupational therapists, etc.

  • Their credentials help raise babysitting fees even faster — which is good news for the providers, who have long been underpaid.
  • As parents’ needs change, “you’re starting to see more babysitters taking multiple jobs” to maximize their income — as well as families hiring more than one babysitter for the week’s coverage, Allen said.
  • “So you see multiple caregivers coming into a household, versus being a primary caregiver,” he said.

By the numbers: Washington, DC, is the most expensive place in the US to hire a sitter, with an average weekly rate of $855, according to a survey of 3,003 adults conducted in March.

  • The states with the next highest rates are Washington ($840), Massachusetts ($834), California ($829) and Colorado ($763).

What is next: plans to propose legislation that would allow families to accumulate up to $10,500 a year in pretax dollars for qualified dependent care — money they can carry from job to job and that doesn’t expire.

  • The $10,500 contribution limit was included in the US bailout but not made permanent.
  • That’s more than double the amount allowed today under flexible spending accounts, which don’t carry money from one year to the next.
Data:  Graphic: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals
Data: Graphic: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

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