We can’t just see childcare as an issue for poor working women

A report in today’s Guardian newspaper has suggested that the Labour Party are considering ‘Scandinavian style’ affordable childcare in order to help women back to work and to stop them from falling out of the labour market. Whilst this is to be applauded, Labour need to understand the Scandinavian model in full instead of picking and choosing elements they like.
Labour’s plans to help the poorest are admirable, but Greens believe that the same standards of care should be available to all, and that childcare is not just an issue for women but for both parents of a child. It is important that we do away with the sky-high private nursery care which many are forced to use in order to maintain their careers, but simultaneously we need to look to extend opportunities for men to actively participate in childcare and to appreciate that simply enabling women to be better mothers does nothing to combat the massive gender inequalities in Britain today.
The Scandinavian system is built on a foundation of comprehensive support from the government for all. Trouble shooting poor areas may make some differences, but affordable or free nursery education, more equal paternity and maternity leave and high-quality and moreover free education should not be the preserve of society’s poorest groups. If Labour are serious about tackling inequalities they should do what Greens have been discussing for years, namely the creation of a comprehensive system of affordable childcare in which men and women are equal partners and share responsibility and in which all of society can partake. We have the potential to make real strides in tackling poverty and creating a fairer and more feminist society. To do so will require more than firefighting by the welfare system.

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