Childcare options unlock workforce potential
The workplace landscape is going through major changes with remote adoption, quiet quitting and expanded geographic hiring, but one thing remains constant in Utah: low unemployment. The state’s historic unemployment rate represents nearly a million job openings and worker shortages across many sectors. Addressing this shortage requires innovative approaches to thinking and acting.
Over the past several years, the Salt Lake Chamber has been actively working to remedy the issue, such as participating in the Clean Slate Initiative (which gives previously incarcerated populations the second chance they deserve), supporting upskilling or reskilling programs and advocating for policies and programs that seek to further the goals of The Utah Compact on Immigration and The Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Both of these compacts work to provide all of Utah’s residents with opportunities for success.
Most recently, the Chamber has turned its attention and effort to the challenge of childcare. Childcare is crucial to Utah’s economic success now and provides a stable foundation for Utah to continue to thrive as a top-tier business environment in the future.
As Utah continues to experience job growth, childcare becomes a key aspect of a parent’s ability to have options for participating in the labor force. The beginning point for developing solutions is having and understanding the data on how limits to childcare impact working parents, their employers and the state’s economy.
"According to the study, 23 percent of respondents’ employers offered childcare assistance, benefits or accommodations. These employers are the vanguard of incentivizing participation in our workforce and represent a baseline we hope to raise."
For example, one sobering data point is learning childcare challenges result in an estimated $1.36 billion loss annually for Utah’s economy. While that number is staggering, consider these statistics and the individual lost opportunity from a recent study on Untapped Potential in Utah from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation:
- 43 percent of parents reported missing work or class at least once in the past three months
- 10 percent of parents voluntarily left a job due to childcare issues
- 48 percent of parents made a significant change to their school or working training in the past 12 months
- 26 percent of parents had to change their childcare arrangement due to Covid
The dynamics behind these numbers mean most families pick a childcare provider based on affordability and pay an average of $561 per month for childcare. Working parents also reported that childcare challenges caused them to forgo promotions, require flexibility in work hours and postpone skills training or pursuing higher education. In some cases, a working parent feels forced to leave the workforce altogether.
According to the study, 23 percent of respondents’ employers offered childcare assistance, benefits or accommodations. These employers are the vanguard of incentivizing participation in our workforce and represent a baseline we hope to raise.
The Salt Lake Chamber continues to work on equal pay initiatives and supports efforts to unlock the full potential of those who want to participate in work or education. Low-income families and working parents bear the brunt of economic disruptions. The pandemic dislocated our economy and childcare systems, but we should not have to leave anyone behind.
The good news is that many employers want to facilitate greater access to childcare to create productive work environments and increase employee satisfaction. Applying a “childcare lens” to any company’s benefits and retention programs will lessen turnover and expand the economic pie. By continuing to listen to the needs of parents and working to find public and private solutions, Utah will be better equipped to unlock the economic potential of parents whose employment and educational options are currently limited by their childcare circumstances.