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NJ child care industry struggles to find workers, report says

Are you still struggling to find reasonable child care in your area?

Research from the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, in conjunction with the university’s New Jersey State Policy Lab, finds the state’s child care workforce is struggling to bounce back from the COVID downturn at the same rate as the workforce of other private companies. industries – resulting in far less capacity than parents could count on before the pandemic.

“Of course, that’s really problematic because working parents rely on child care to fully participate in our economy,” said Debra Lancaster, CWW’s chief executive.

In the third quarter of 2021, New Jersey’s child care workforce was at 84% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the research. Overall private employment, meanwhile, rebounded by 98%.

Some counties move more slowly than others. In Salem County, for example, the child care workforce in Q3 2021 was 60% of Q1 2020 levels. The share of Q1 2020 levels was also below 80% in Bergen, Gloucester and Mercer counties.

According to the research, only two counties – Cape May and Ocean – had more child care staff in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the start of 2020.

NJ teacher shortage – districts still filling holes before September

Despite the closures caused by the COVID emergency, the number of residential care providers in 2021 was close to the figure recorded in 2019. The number of licensed home care providers, however, continued to decline. In turn, child care capacity was still below 2019 levels in 2021.

“The worry is that the workforce isn’t there to fill the classrooms,” Lancaster said. “You can say they have such and such an ability, but they only have that ability if they have a teacher in the class.”

Why Is NJ’s Child Care Workforce Lagging?

Pay is a major reason for the lack of childcare support, according to Lancaster. Workers with higher education have little incentive to stay in the child care and early education field, the report says.

The report’s earnings analysis suggests that child care workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher earn about one-third of their equally educated counterparts in other private industries. Those with at least a bachelor’s degree “earn only $908 more on average in monthly salary” than those in the field with less than a high school diploma.

The report highlights actions taken by other states with similar concerns. For example, some states have provided child care workers with additional monthly income through the use of federal funding — but that assistance is likely temporary as it draws on COVID-19 relief funds.

Another way to improve the provision of CPEs is to introduce a tax credit for employers, according to the report. Several states provide credits to employers who enter into contracts with child care providers. Such a decision would be especially helpful in the “childcare deserts” of New Jersey, the report said.

“Ultimately, without public investment in New Jersey’s child care landscape, the industry and its workforce will face instability,” the report states. “Working families who lack access to affordable, quality child care will continue to face economic hardship. Prioritizing the care economy over the coming decades will be critical to success. economic and family welfare of New Jersey.”

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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