Affordability of early childhood education
What We Have FoundThe affordability of early childhood education substantially improved with the introduction of 20 hours ECE in 2007. Levels of affordability have largely been maintained since then, with increases in fees being offset by increases in income. However, fees increased five percent in 2011 following government funding changes introduced in February 2011.
Date Updated: July 2012
Change in the level of early childhood education fees paid by families (as measured by the Consumers Price Index’s “Childcare section”) relative to the change in their income (as measured by the Quarterly Employment Survey’s “average hourly ordinary-time earnings”).
Why This Is ImportantChildren who attend a quality early childhood education service (ECE) gain benefits that last through to their early years in school and beyond (Wylie, C., et al., 2006). To achieve any benefits the family must find the ECE services affordable. The affordability of early childhood education services is one of the factors that determine how accessible early childhood education is and hence the extent that children are likely to participate.
Lack of affordability is for some, a significant barrier to participation in ECE and the workforce. In the 2009 Childcare Survey, 24% of parents who had difficulties accessing childcare while working or wanting to work, reported that ECE care was too expensive. Improving ECE affordability is therefore considered a key strategy to increase participation in ECE and the workforce.
Whether a family considers ECE to be affordable is dependent on three factors: the cost of the service to them, the family’s income, and the importance the family attaches to ECE relative to other ways their income can be spent. It is possible to measure changes over time for the first two factors and for their change relative to each other. This will not only indicate how affordability is changing generally, it will also enable an assessment of the impact of policies targeted at ECE affordability (such as the introduction of 20 Hours ECE for 3-4 year-olds) and of various factors affecting the costs faced by ECE services.
How We Are Going
Changes in the affordability of ECE can be monitored by examining how the level of ECE fees paid by families has changed relative to their income. If fees fall relative to income, the affordability of ECE can be said to have improved.
Information on ECE fees is collected as part of Statistics New Zealand’s Consumers Price Index (CPI), which is also affected by changes in the Childcare Subsidy administered by Work and Income.
Information on income is collected as part of Statistics New Zealand’s Quarterly Employment Survey, from which the average hourly ordinary-time earnings figures have been used in this analysis. These have been used to derive a third index, which shows how fees change relative to income. It is this third index that can be used to determine how the affordability of ECE has changed. All indices have been set to equal 1000 in the quarter ended March 2005.
There was a clear impact of the 20 Hours ECE policy (introduced 1 July 2007) on ECE fees. Fees paid by households fell 34.8% in the year from December 2006 to December 2007. Relative to the 4.1% rise in average ordinary-time earnings over the same period, the resulting improvement in average fees relative to average earnings was 37.4%.
In the four years from December 2007 to December 2011 affordability was largely maintained. Average fees paid by households rose by 12.0%, while average ordinary-time earnings rose 11.1%.
There was some impact from the removal of the funding band for services with 100% qualified teachers (introduced February 2011). Fees paid by households rose by 5.3% in the March 2011 quarter, relative to the 0.3% rise in average ordinary-time earnings over the same period, resulting in a rise in average fees relative to average earnings of 5.0% in March 2011. Average fees relative to average earnings since then, has remained largely the same.
- Wylie, C., Hodgen, E., Ferral, H., and Thompson, J. (2006). Contributions of Early Childhood Education to Age-14 Performance. Evidence from the competent children, competent learners project. Wellington: Ministry of Education and New Zealand Centre for Education Research.
- Statistics New Zealand (2010). New Zealand Childcare Survey 2009 (Revised 17 December 2010). Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.
Downloads / Links
Where to Find Out MoreRelated ECE Indicators
For other indicators on early childhood education please visit: Participation in ECE Provision of ECE Services Registered ECE teachers Children living in low income
households ECE Statistics & Publications
For a large range of statistics on ECE services, provision (including waiting times), and ECE related publications please visit: Statistics on ECE Affordability ECE Statistics ECE Publications Websites of Interest
For a large range of other information on ECE in New Zealand please visit: ECE Lead website