The difficulty, Curtis explained, is day care workers typically make roughly $12 an hour and work a demanding job year-round. Public schools and other employers, who are likewise scrambling to hire workers, are poaching child care workers by giving thousands of dollars more a year and better benefits. A nearby Dunkin’ starts pay at $14 an hour.
People tell Curtis they’ll come to South Shore Stars as a “last resort” if they can’t find anything else.
Hiring and maintaining good workers has been hard in the child care industry for years, though it is intensifying into a disaster. Pandemic-fueled staffing challenges threaten to hold back the recovery, as the staffing difficulties at daycares have a ripple effect across the economy. Without sufficient staff, daycares are turning away children, leaving parents — especially mothers — unable to return to work.
Almost 1.6 million moms of children under 17 are still missing from the labor force. They dropped out throughout the pandemic to care for children and have not been able to return to work as the school and daycare situation remains turbulent, particularly for unvaccinated children under the age of 12. There are still COVID outbreaks taking place at schools, and some childcares and after-school programs remain closed or they are accepting fewer children.
Even the White House is concerned. In a new report this past week, President Joe Biden’s Treasury Department called the current child care system “unworkable” with high costs for parents, low wages for workers, and not enough spots for kids.
“Child care is a textbook example of a broken market,” announced Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a mother herself. She pointed out that families pay, on average, 13% of their income on child care for young kids, yet daycare workers make so little they rank in the bottom 2% of all professions. Biden has offered the largest federal investment ever in child care to transform the sector.
“This is a crisis,” announced Diane Barber, executive director of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association. “Parents are looking for child care, but now it’s this Catch-22. We don’t have the staff, so we can’t open the classrooms, so families can’t go back to work because they can’t find child care.”
The numbers are unbelievable: The child care services industry is still down 126,700 workers — over a 10% decline from pre-pandemic levels, Labor Department data shows. While many industries complain they can’t find enough workers, the hiring situation is more dire in child-care than restaurants right now.