In his blog for STV News, ANAS SARWAR MP discussed the latest employment statistics and childcare difficulties for Scottish families.

 

The latest employment statistics have shown that unemployment continues to be the biggest problem facing our country and all political parties must be focused on helping get people back into work.

But while we rightly focus on creating the jobs our communities badly need, we must also make sure that when people have the opportunity to work, that they can take it.

And one of the biggest issues facing parents when trying to re-enter the workforce is childcare.

It was disappointing to see a recent survey that showed that Scottish families are being left behind the rest of the United Kingdom when it comes to childcare provision.

Affordable and practical childcare is vitally important to many Scottish families. While the cost of childcare has been rising sharply in recent years, wages and family income has been frozen or in many cases reduced.

The survey found that childcare costs in Scotland are the highest in the UK and that a third of families living on less than £12,000 per year had gone into debt due to care costs.

While English and Welsh children aged three and four are entitled to receive 15 hours of free nursery education for up to 38 weeks of the year; in Scotland the SNP government has postponed implementing a similar agreement, to the detriment of families.

When in power the last Labour Government did much to address this issue, doubling the number of childcare places and raising the level of Tax Credits to cover 80% of childcare costs.

This helped thousand of parents take the step back into work, but progress in Scotland has stalled under the current Scottish Government.

This weekend I was delighted to support the Labour Party’s announcement that childcare will be an “early priority” in future elections.

Labour shadow ministers will now look to successful childcare systems in other countries to make sure that our welfare system is serving families and children.

Countries such as Denmark, where childcare is free to low income families and Norway, where parents can access childcare from birth to age five at low cost. Both countries now have 10% more woman in work than the United Kingdom.

Women are often the victims of poor childcare provision. According to Aviva, more than 30,000 women have had to give up jobs due to the high costs of childcare and other costs.

This is not just damaging for families, but also for our economy.

Women and parents back in work pay tax, receive fewer benefits and often use their wages to help create the demand that has been so lacking in our economy.

With latest unemployment statistics showing that 400 women are losing their jobs every day and female unemployment is at its highest level for 17 years; we must do everything we can to make it easier for families to re-enter the workforce.

Investing in childcare is investing in our country’s economy. It’s proven to be best for children, families and for the economy. Both the SNP and the Tory-led Government simply must do more.

Anas Sarwar is the MP for Glasgow Central and Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. News and information on Anas can be found at www.anassarwar.org. Follow him on Twitter: @AnasSarwar