Monash University is helping put early childhood education reform on the economic recovery agenda as Australia strives to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A suite of Monash experts – in the fields of early childhood development, economics and policy reform – will present at a virtual Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, December 2 to advance the Thrive By Five campaign.
The campaign, led by the Minderoo Foundation, calls for universal access to affordable, high-quality early childhood learning for all Australian families.
Presenting at the Town Hall – attended by several hundred people – are Minderoo Foundation Co-Chair and Co-Founder Nicola Forrest AO, Monash University Chancellor Simon McKeon, Professor of public policy Michael Mintrom and early childhood development experts, professors Kim Cornish and Marilyn Fleer.
The panel will discuss why, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, early childhood education reform is key to Australia’s long-term economic prosperity.
“Reform is more important than ever in Australia at this time,” Professor Mintrom says. “Unemployment rates have shot up during the pandemic, and women have tended to be more adversely affected than men. Making high quality early childhood education more affordable and accessible to families now would offer more women opportunities to reconnect with the paid workforce and help stimulate the economic recovery.”
Research shows that participation in high-quality early childhood education not only results in more positive outcomes in adulthood for the individual, but also has a broader economic impact for society.
Mrs Forrest says a report spearheaded by Minderoo Foundation and partners last year revealed early childhood education deficiencies cost taxpayers $15.2 billion a year on expenses related to issues like youth crime, unemployment and drug and alcohol abuse.
“We need to sharpen the national conversation when it comes to our children, to help build momentum for a shift in policy thinking to ensure every Australian child has the chance to thrive,” Mrs Forrest says.
“I believe investing in an accessible childcare and early learning system will return a triple dividend: it will improve early learning outcomes for Australian children, increase workforce participation for women, and have long-term productivity gains by contributing to a more skilled workforce.”
A Grattan Institute analysis shows that increasing the childcare subsidy by $5 billion a year would deliver a double return of $11 billion in gross domestic product. Additionally, every million dollars invested in childcare creates 9.2 full-time jobs, versus one job for the same spend in the construction industry.
The Town Hall is the first in a series of forums co-hosted by Monash University as part of the Minderoo Foundation’s broader public engagement campaign.