Today’s parents don’t just face an ever upwardly mobile price tag to get adequate care for their children when they go to work. They might not even be able to get a spot in a daycare center at all. The number of children who need care outstrips the number of spots available in a number of states.
When Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was asked about this problem in November and what he would do as president to increase access, his solution was for employers to provide childcare themselves at the workplace. “It’s not expensive for a company to do it,” he responded. “You need one person or two people, and you need some blocks and you need some swings and some toys… It’s something that can be done, I think, very easily by a company.”
American companies would beg to differ. In its latest survey of what benefits the country’s employers offer, the Society for Human Resource Management found that just 3 percent of U.S. employers have on-site daycare. That figure has fallen pretty steadily, dropping from 9 percent in 1996 and 4 percent in 2012.
That may be because it can actually be rather expensive to run a childcare center. Beyond having to pay for the employees who will watch the children, anyone who operates a center has to comply with state and federal rules and regulations for safety and well-being.
Patagonia, a company that offers on-site daycare, claims to recoup 91 percent of its costs — half of them through a federal tax break and the rest through employee retention and productivity. Still, the company has to lay out about $1 million even after it takes in employee fees for the daycare slots it offers.
Even Trump’s businesses may have decided the equation doesn’t work out. In November, he claimed that his companies run two different on-site daycare programs — “I do it all over, and I get great people because of it” — but there is no evidence that that is indeed the case. The Associated Press spoke with Trump employees across the country and reviewed handbooks and found no trace of on-site childcare. The two programs he cited by name, “Trump Kids” and “Trumpeteers,” are offered to company clients, not employees.
Trump has offered another potential solution to the skyrocketing cost of childcare: allowing families to fully deduct the cost of childcare from their taxes. Yet such a proposal would only help the very wealthiest who spend the most and have the highest tax obligations and do nothing for low-income families who struggle the most to afford care.