London nursery fees set to hit 80% of average monthly wage in April

Kate Middleton visits Foxcubs Nursery in Luton

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Childcare costs in the UK have long been some of the highest in the world. A new study has now found that in 2023 – with the vast majority of nursery providers planning to up their rates – fees could swell to over half the typical annual income. Mothers especially are suffering from this state of affairs, with a recent survey showing over two in five deemed it better to quit their jobs and look after their children full-time than continue to pay eye-watering fees. Check’s map below to see how expensive nurseries are in your area.

According to a recent survey of over a thousand nursery providers by educational charity Early Years Alliance, almost nine in ten said they would “probably” or “definitely” increase their fees this year. 

Neil Leitch, CEO of the Alliance, said: “The early years sector in this country is in crisis. As our survey findings clearly show, current levels of Government funding are nowhere near enough to support the delivery of affordable, sustainable quality care and education.

“As a result, nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are being left with an impossible choice: substantially increase fees for parents and carers or go out of business altogether.”

Data analysis by private pension provider Penfold has revealed that this could see the average cost of having a child in full-time nursery could soon be £59.82 a day – equivalent to £1,195 a month.

By looking at the fees charged by over 800 nurseries across the UK, Penfold found the current cost of nurseries was roughly £55 a day, or just over £1,100 a month.

The company’s research estimated that this was likely to rise by eight percent come April.

According to the latest ONS statistics, the median annual salary for full-time employees in the UK is around £33,000. After income tax and National Insurance contributions, take-home pay at this level would be £25,851 – working out to £2,154 per month.

This means that if you worked full-time and required full-time nursery care for a single child, just over half (51 percent) of your income will soon have to go towards the fees – before even considering the cost of bills, transport and other living expenses.

Use our interactive map below to see how much childcare costs in your area…

However, this proportion varies widely depending on where you live in the UK. England was found to be the most expensive country – with average costs per day set to run up to £66 a day, or £1,318 per month, according to Penfold.

At the local level, prices in London were found to be higher than anywhere else, and will average a staggering £87 per day or £1,736 per month come April – more than 80 percent of the median UK wage.

The capital was followed by Berkshire (£1,695), Hertfordshire (£1,678) and Buckinghamshire (£1,638). All ten of the most expensive counties for childcare are in England.

The cheapest country to put a child into nursery was Wales, with an average 23 percent lower of £46 per day and £929 per month. The cheapest region was Ceredigion (£742), followed by Blaenau Gwent (£797) and Neath-Port Talbot (£839). Eight out of ten of the cheapest locations were in Wales.

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For a couple with two kids in full-time childcare earning the average wage, costs after benefits in the UK were the third-highest of all 38 OECD member countries in 2021 – after only Switzerland and New Zealand.

The organisation found 29 percent of the average working couple’s wages went towards nursery fees in the UK, relative to 19 percent in the US, 12 percent in France and just one percent in Germany. In fact, Britons pay in a month what families in Germany pay in a year.

According to Penfold, a recent survey of 26,962 parents of young children found that 62 percent say that the cost of childcare is now the same or more than their rent or mortgage. This rises to 73 percent for single parents.

With household energy bills and mortgage rates soaring in the cost-of-living crisis, this situation is clearly unsustainable for many.

The burden, however, is disproportionately shouldered by mothers. Although women make up 52.7 percent of the UK workforce, 74 percent of women are the primary caregiver for their children – having to take short or long periods off work to look after the family – compared with just 26 percent of men.

According to a survey of 27,000 parents by Pregnant Then Screwed, childcare costs had forced 43 percent of mums in the UK to consider leaving their jobs and 40 percent to work fewer hours.

Pete Hykin at Penfold commented on the findings: “The increase in childcare costs is pushing parents, especially mothers, out of full-time roles which stunts their career options but also widens the savings gap as they’re less able to contribute to their pension pots.

“The maternal pay gap which measures the wage difference between mothers and non-mothers is growing and with this increase in nursery fees and lack of support, this will continue to grow.”

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