As Halloween nears and we prepare for tricks and treats, the scariest thing we’re seeing isn’t a ghost or a goblin; it’s the reality of how the U.S. treats the people who care for the people we love the most. Ridiculously low-wages in the child care industry mean that the people in the jobs we value most are not seeing that value in their paychecks. They are some of the lowest paid people in the United States. Now that you’ve seen how scary child care can be for parents, here are 5 (more) scary facts about how the U.S. treats child care providers.
1. Priorities That Cause The Skin To Pale!
We pay people more to watch our cars (as parking lot attendants) than to watch our kids (as child care providers). How’s that for some good ol’ American family values?
2. Hard Work That Never Pays Off!
Work hard, play by the rules, get a college degree = recipe for success, right? In most industries, yes, but what’s scary is that “early childhood education” is the college major with the lowest projected lifetime earnings.
3. Vanishing Paychecks!
In nearly half of all states, people who work in child care would have to pay half of their paychecks to afford center-based care for their own infants. Since we have no national paid family and medical leave, these parents (usually moms) are forced to make impossible choices (or be lucky enough to have family members ready to step up to the plate!). No wonder so many young people are moving home to live with their parents – it’s the only way they can afford to save for child care for their future children. Wish it wasn’t so easy to solve that mystery.
4. Recovery-Resistant Wages!
When the economy began to recover in 2010, wages started to go up – at least a little. But not for people working in the child care field. In more than two-thirds of states, the wages of people working in child care actually fell between 2010 and 2015. Scary!
5. Germs Everywhere! The Sequel That Never Ends!
The sheer number of germs kids bring with them to their classrooms should be all the reason we need to guarantee paid sick days and health care for all child care providers. People working in child care need these benefits just as much, if not more, than the rest of us. But here’s what’s frightening: Only 15 percent – fewer than one in six people — working in the child care field has health insurance through their employer, as compared to half of the people who work in other occupations. And paid sick days? Since we have no federal paid sick days guarantees, if you don’t live in one of the states or cities that guarantees you can earn paid sick days, you are out of luck – especially in the child care field. Only about one-third of the lowest paid people (like those who work with kids) working in the U.S. have access to paid sick days through their employers.
BONUS: Working In Poverty!
Here’s a bonus scare: Pay for people in the child care workforce is so low that almost half rely on public assistance programs (TANF, SNAP, CHIP, EITC) to support their own families. Yeah. Because that totally makes sense! (Sarcasm.)
So there you have it: five perfectly terrifying (and quite frankly, anger-inducing) ways the U.S. shows its (lack of) appreciation for child care providers. Quality child care that parents can afford and quality pay that allows providers to live a decent life don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Caring about care work, and getting loud about laws that actually value caregivers and families are just a couple of ways we end this nightmare. Tell us your horror story and share this post!