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Low pay, few benefits: The day-care dilemma

May 01, 2001

Low pay, few benefits: The day-care dilemma



The Keystone Research Center, a non-profit think tank based in Harrisburg, Pa., reports that although nearly two-thirds of children under 5 are in some sort of day-care facility, the workers who care for them face low pay and, in most cases, no health benefits. It's a fact that should prompt some serious thought about why society is willing to pay the people who care for next generation less than the average convenience-store clerk.

The Keystone study, as reported by The Associated Press, found that while 60 percent of Pennsylvania residents get health-care benefits from their employers, only 25 percent of child-care workers do. And the average child-care worker makes less than $15,000 a year.

The result? Turnover rates of 31 to 51 percent a year. That might be acceptable in a business devoted to stuffing envelopes, but not in child care, where children spend from eight to 10 hours per day with care-givers and develop bonds with them.

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According to Karen Wert, director of a child-care facility in Harrisburg, frequent turnover in care-givers can lead to disruptive behavior in young students. And as anyone who's ever experienced the arrival of a new teacher in the middle of the school year knows, there's a period of adjustment that must take place before any real learning starts.

So what's the solution? Researchers suggest taking more money from the national tobacco settlement to provide health-care coverage to uninsured adults, including child-care workers, and extending that Medicaid benefits to them.

We suggest that government look at incentives that would encourage one or more businesses to join forces to provide employee child care at a modest cost to workers. Child-care workers could be included in the company's regular insurance pool as well.

In that way, businesses could not only build employee loyalty, but would also relieve the taxpayers of taking one another expensive solution to one of society's problems.

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