Tackling Affordable Childcare and Its Gender Related Discrepancies

Who pays the price when childcare is hard to come by? Georgia’s failure to adequately support working families in need of affordable childcare options hurts the economy and drives women out of the workforce.


In the state of Georgia, affordable childcare options are hard to come by as early childcare professionals and staffers continue to get squeezed out of the sector. This trend reflects many of the hardships families across the country are facing in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey from the Quality Care for Children’s (QCC) Provider Pulse Check report reveals that in Georgia, “compared to pre-pandemic levels, the sector’s workforce has been devastated, with 72 percent of centers reporting teacher shortages and 78 percent of programs finding it difficult to hire staff for vacancies.”[1] Childcare centers are struggling to keep doors open amidst high turnover rates. The rate at which child care staffers quit is exacerbated by the fact that in Georgia, “caregivers are paid less than 98% of professions– causing high turnover rates, and workforce shortages,” according to WXGA News.[2] The remaining staffers are saddled with extra work as they struggle to keep up with the demand for childcare services in daycares, centers, schools, etc., that have fewer spots available. Some may see these shortages and be tempted to redirect parents to early childhood education programs such as early pre-k, but it is not that simple. The waiting list for early pre-k in Georgia can be exorbitantly long, and parents report feeling left in the dark about exact waitlist spot movements for their children.[3]


A lack of affordable childcare options impacts Georgia’s economy in a myriad of ways, with unique gendered impacts that disproportionately affect women. Women tend to fill in the gap of childcare when private and public sector options become unavailable or inaccessible. Throughout the pandemic, Georgia saw a spike in the number of women dropping out of the workforce, but as lockdown ended, women steadily re-entered, mirroring pre-pandemic numbers. However, this trend was short-lived, as was reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “in June, we started to see a reversal” of this trend as funding allocated from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRSSA) came to a screeching halt.[4] Even in cases where families manage to enroll their children into childcare centers, daycares, etc., the volatility of the sector places many hardships on the state’s workforce and educational systems. For instance, in a report from the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, it was discovered that “more than a quarter of Georgia parents of children under 5 reported that, in the past year, they or someone in their family experienced a significant disruption to employment—quitting, not taking, or greatly changing a job—due to challenges with child care.”[5] Women are reflected disproportionately as being the most affected by these disruptions to childcare services.[6]


The state of Georgia must secure more funding for childcare service providers and invest in training additional staff to meet the critical need for affordable childcare options. First, it is imperative that the state provide financial compensation to childcare service providers in order to retain them. An experimental study released by the Study of Early Education in Virginia Teacher Recognition and referenced in a report from the Center for American Progress reveals that workers who were given additional bonuses were significantly more likely to remain in their jobs than their colleagues who did not.[7] If the state wishes to retain the limited number of childcare staff working in childcare centers, then providing financial benefits to them should be a prioritized policy goal. Then, to meet the demand for childcare service providers, we need to invest in their training and development in order to yield positive results.[8] Georgia is already developing a Bilingual Child Development Associate (CDA) pilot program to help those whose primary language may not be English retain degrees in early childhood education.[9] Providing funding and continuing to develop the skills of individuals who may not have had access to obtaining degrees related to childhood education will not only help increase the number of workers, but raise the quality of instruction children are receiving.[Ibid] Additionally, Georgia should improve its universal pre-k program by allocating more funding to the program to expand access across the state, improving the transparency of the waiting list function, and retaining early childhood teachers with competitive salaries. A report released by Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research showed that during the course of Georgia’s universal pre-k program over the past 30 years, only 55% of the state’s 4-year-olds are accessing them.[10] The report then went on to recommend that Georgia increase funding and pay special attention to retaining teachers alongside decreasing class sizes.[Ibid] 


Thus, keeping women in the workforce, expanding the number of childcare providers, paying them adequate wages, and growing universal pre-k should be at the forefront of Georgia’s legislative agenda.