UK families face highest childcare costs
Working mothers have to fork out more for childcare in Britain than in any other country in the developed world.
A third of family income goes towards nurseries and childminders - almost four times the cost in Germany and three times that of France.
A study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of 32 industrialised nations, found that 33 per cent of a British family's net income goes towards the cost of childcare.
This is higher than every other country in Europe and the rest of the Western world.
German parents pay just 8 per cent of their net income towards childcare, while in France the figure is 11 per cent. Costs tend to be higher in English-speaking countries: 19 per cent in the U.S, 22 per cent in Canada, 28 per cent in New Zealand and 29 per cent in Ireland.
But none exceed the amount paid by British parents.
The most recent figures show that in the UK, the cost of a full-time under-two's nursery place is £167 a week – rising to as high as £375 a week in areas like central London. This works out as more than £18,000 a year.
For children under the age of two, there'costs are even higher because they require more hands-on care. Nursery costs increased by 5.1 per cent in the last year alone – twice the rate of inflation.
Childminders cost an average of £152 a week for a two-year-old. But in London, costs can be as high as £400 a week – some £20,000 a year.
The reason that British charges are so much higher is that, unlike in Europe, there is little government support for childcare. What help there is is targeted at those on lower incomes.
European countries tend to provide much more funding for childcare to allow mothers to continue in work. In Sweden, for example, pre-school places are available from the age of one, and no one pays more than 3 per cent of their monthly income per child.
The OECD report, Gender Brief, compared childcare costs before tax breaks and state help; and then childcare costs after this help. In the UK costs are 43 per cent of family income before government help, and 33 per cent afterwards.
Willem Adema, one of the report's authors, said: 'The British system is geared towards lower income groups, with various tax credits focused at them.
'For these parents, childcare isn't that much more expensive than in other countries. But the moment your earnings hit a certain level it becomes much more expensive.'
Kate Groucutt of the Daycare Trust charity, which campaigns for affordable childcare, said the figures were 'of huge concern'.
She said: 'The crippling cost of childcare in the UK means that many parents are finding they are financially better working only part-time or not at all, and children are missing out on the proven benefits of good quality early years education.'
Do you find your childcare costs crippling?
Were you able to contine paying for childcare after you had more than one child?