An overwhelming number of women – including salon owners – have named an inability to find affordable daycare as a primary reason for their and their female staff’s inability to grow their business or commit to in-salon hours.

Recent data from the Productivity Commission shows there was a 22% rise in the number of parents in Australia who did not work due to the cost of childcare in 2020 compared with the previous year.

Furthermore, 90,000 Australian parents stayed out of the workforce last year because the cost of childcare was too high.

Australian small business and family enterprise ombudsman Kate Carnell has supported a reform of the childcare system, saying access to high-quality, affordable early education would deliver “essential support to women in small business”.

“Women make up more than a third of Australia’s small business owners — 38%,” Ms Carnell said in a statement. “We know the COVID recession had a disproportionate impact on women. With childcare fees remaining too high, mothers — more often than not — need to spend more time at home to look after their kids rather than working to grow their business,” she said.

Ms Carnell is urging the government to consider innovative ways to increase participation rates for women in the workforce to ensure productivity gains and to benefit businesses.

Ms Carnell says there are a number of ways the government could achieve this, including making childcare more tax-effective or by phasing in an expanded subsidy scheme which is estimated to deliver an $11 billion boost to the economy.

Human resources expert Monica Chiva agrees, saying salons, particularly those predominantly owned and run by women, would be much better off if there was a way women could better access childcare. “At this point, women are mostly working to pay for childcare. There’s very little left at the end of the week if you consider that some Sydney childcare centres can charge up to $200 per day. What does that leave for us to pour into our business?”

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