Paying for Child Care (2018 Mar)


Barry A. Liebling

Working parents with young children often use child care services. The services (if they are performed well) take care of the kids during the day and permit parents to work full-time at their jobs. Companies also benefit from these services. A lot of firms consider local child care facilities essential. When day care for children is available, employees are more likely to stay on the job and have higher attendance rates.

So what should companies do with respect to providing child care? For some businesses it might be advantageous (they have a lot of workers with small children). For others – with a different workforce profile – it might not make sense. If a business decides to get into the child care arena the management should calculate how to maximize the quality of service while containing costs. Some larger businesses have day care facilities directly on their premises, and employees take advantage of the benefit. Others subsidize or pay entirely for child care because on balance it is a good business decision. Not only does it increase employee reliability, but employees might genuinely appreciate their company for offering this perquisite.

Where can a company go wrong? When the management engages in unethical behavior and schemes to have other people forcibly provide for their employees’ child care. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that some firms are actively calling for laws (both federal and state) that would require businesses to provide child day care and, of course, the service would be funded (at least partially) by tax payers.

It is interesting to note that most people understand it is wrong to steal, to take money from others without their permission. But a sizable proportion of Americans believe it is acceptable to use the government as a surrogate – to pass laws that confiscate money from tax payers to fund projects that should be financed privately and voluntarily.

Why would business professionals push for laws that would have the government pay for day care? The more sophisticated executives in this category understand that they can offload expenses onto the public, and very few will object. They intend to get away with what they know (deep down) is theft. The more naive executives earnestly believe that there is nothing wrong in having the government pay for useful services because it is done all the time. They have been successfully indoctrinated by their teachers – boosters of the welfare state. Naive executives are in the habit of dropping or ignoring the context of important issues. Is child care a good idea? Of course. Who should pay for it? As long as it is someone else, it does not matter.

Notice that as soon as the government has its large, visible hand on day care the landscape shifts.

Employees know that to the extent that they are enjoying child day care their company deserves no gratitude. The government is requiring the policy, and the government should be thanked for its “generosity.” So much for a business gaining worker loyalty because of its attractive benefits.

When child care is completely private the activities and curriculum delivered to the kids is decided by the provider – where the parents and sponsors have veto power. You can be sure that when the government is paying any portion of the tuition, the government will dictate what is done and what is said to the children. Starting with the first grade, governments schools consistently push the welfare state agenda onto their captive pupils. Be ready for leftist indoctrination to begin before the first grade.

How expensive will day care for children be once the government is the managing partner? The cost of the service will have to go up (think USPS, Amtrak, public K12 schools), and it will be necessary to raise taxes (or borrow more) to fund it. Inevitably tax payers will have a greater burden. Of course, anyone who objects to spending more money on government child care will be accused of being heartless and against children.

The solution to the child care problem is simple. Keep the government out. The difficult challenge is explaining to Americans why private funding and control is the right way to do it.

*** See other entries at in “Monthly Columns.” ***

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