A policy proposed by five of the nation’s six special municipalities to raise subsidies for private childcare facilities has been harshly criticized by some advocacy groups, which say that the move goes against the government’s policy of expanding access to public childcare facilities.
The Awakening Foundation and several groups have recently formed an alliance to scrutinize policies related to child education and gender equality.
Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung — all of the special municipalities except for New Taipei City — are proposing to increase subsidies for private childcare facilities, the foundation said, adding that the policy would include facilities that accept two-year-old children.
The proposal is coming as these mayors, as well as commissioners in other counties, are up for re-election next year, the foundation said.
Local activists meeting workers across the nation between July and October pointed to this particular issue as one people were most concerned about, foundation chairwoman Shen Hsiu-hua (沈秀華) said.
In the past, cities and counties competed to provide the best childbirth benefits to parents, foundation board member Hung Hui-fen (洪惠芬) said.
“Local government officials still give out money despite this having caused many of them to accumulate serious debts,” Hung said. “The public services that people need most are still lacking.”
Public childcare facilities are heavily regulated by the government, and their information is available to the public, she said.
However, as there are only a limited number of public childcare facilities, some parents must turn to private facilities, which charge higher tuition and do not guarantee a quality education, she added.
Offering an increase in subsidies to private childcare facilities would only cause them to invent other charges for the parents, Hung said, adding that the increase would not ease parents’ financial burdens, ensure quality care for children or protect the rights of teachers in daycare centers or kindergartens.
It would only benefit the owners of private childcare facilities, she added.
The central government appropriated about NT$5.8 billion (US$193.24 million) in subsidies for five-year-old children to enter kindergarten free of charge in last year’s school year, Hung said, adding that the sum had to be shared among 22 cities and counties across the nation.
If all 22 cities and counties have decided to expand subsidies for private childcare facilities and to extend benefits to two-year-old children, the estimated budget for the subsidies would go up to NT$10.42 billion, she said.
Politicians should not listen when private childcare facility operators accuse the government of competing with businesses by building more public childcare facilities, Peng Wan-Ru Foundation deputy executive director Lin Lu-hung (林綠紅) said.
Instead, politicians should request higher quality care in public childcare services at fair prices, which is the only way to satisfy parents’ childcare needs, Lin said.
“I would suggest that officials running for re-election go to one of the public or non-profit kindergartens to see how they must decide which children to accept by holding a draw, and how anxious parents become about whether their children are selected,” Lin said.
The amount of funding that the government uses to subsidize private childcare services could be used to build 4,000 public childcare facilities, including 2,000 daycare centers for children up to two years old and 2,000 non-profit kindergartens for children aged two to six, she said, adding that more than 232,000 children would benefit.
Meanwhile, local governments must also cap the amount of subsidies granted to nannies, Lin added.
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