The workforce that powers our economy is in crisis.
Early education is essential infrastructure for a healthy economy. Yet over the past decade, a childcare crisis has arisen, with the childcare supply in Massachusetts shrinking as the number of children needing care, especially in low-income areas, has grown steadily.
High costs are making childcare increasingly unaffordable for many families. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of infant care is over $20,900 per year. This is 31% higher than the average cost of rent for a family in Massachusetts.
At the same time, childcare workers are chronically underpaid. Recent advocacy by United Way, The Boston Foundation and the Boston Opportunity Agenda notes that pre-pandemic, 40 percent of center-based educators worried about having enough money for food and 67% reported not being able to pay monthly bills.
Early childhood professionals are experts in fostering child development, but when it comes to gaining skills to run their business, they are often on their own. This threatens the viability of these small businesses and reduces access for working parents who rely on childcare every day.
Family childcare (FCC) providers — small businesses that operate in the provider’s home — are often more affordable and flexible for families and play a critical role in strengthening local economies. However, FCCs also face significant and growing challenges. Throughout the pandemic, family childcare providers have struggled to remain open, and many have closed their doors.
A response to the childcare crisis
In response, United Way launched Shared Services MA, which provides business training, coaching, technical assistance and peer support networks for family childcare providers who face many challenges, including isolation, limited resources and support staff, and lack of access to business expertise. Yesterday, the Boston Foundation announced a new investment of $100,000 in United Way’s Shared Services initiative to further stabilize these small businesses and increase affordable care to families with young children.
In this article we’ve published with the Boston Business Journal, we highlight the critical role that FCC’s play in increasing the availability of child care across our region, and the ways we are partnering to provide business support to these entrepreneurs.
Without a strategy to stabilize the workforce and expand small business supports for the sector, this instability will continue to slow our region’s recovery from COVID-19. United Way’s Shared Services work is a proven economic development initiative that invests in the workforce needs of family childcare businesses and increases the sustainability of the early education sector.
In this special series, we’re highlighting three core workforce challenges our region faces, including what’s ahead for workers in the Hospitality industry, which has been devastated by the economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis and how we’re partnering to diversify the region’s STEM workforce. Finally, we’ll examine some of the systemic solutions being put forward by some of our region’s experts in the workforce development field.