The Stats NZ report released today stating that one in four young children were cared for by grandparents in 2017 is an apt reminder that our grandparents deserve a bow for lending a hand in informal childcare.

Childcare is an important necessity of the modern day life with a lot of parents juggling between work and study and having to choose between the options of formal or informal care.

“The majority of informal care for kids was done by grandparents, almost triple the next largest category,” labour market and households statistics senior manager Jason Attewell said.

“Most informal care is unpaid for, and grandparents play a crucial role in allowing parents to juggle work and study. These results resonate with me personally, as I’m grateful for the role grandparents have played in raising my children,” Mr Attewell further added. 

Other types of ‘informal care’ include childcare arrangements such as a nanny or babysitter, friends, and family. The Childcare in New Zealand Survey covers the childcare arrangements for children up to the age of 13 years.

Childcare in New Zealand 2017 shows that in 2017:

  • 24 percent of children were cared for by grandparents
  • 8.2 percent were cared for by a family member other than a parent or grandparent
  • 3.9 percent were cared for by a friend or neighbour
  • 5.9 percent received care from another parent living elsewhere
  • 2.5 percent were cared for by a nanny or a babysitter.

Children may attend more than one type of informal care.

In 2017, 122,800 preschool children and 207,200 schoolchildren attended a variety of informal care. The median length of time spent in informal care was eight hours per week. Almost one-third of children (32 percent) attending informal care also attended at least one type of formal care.

“Parents are often juggling work or study, so different types of informal care can be useful to fit that, as well as give their children a more varied or better experience,” Mr Attewell said.

While fewer young children, especially two- and three-year-olds, were in informal care than in 2009, the parents of almost 4 in 10 children (38 percent) relied on the help of grandparents, other family, and friends. Childcare in New Zealand 2017 indicated a shift towards formal care, with a large rise in the proportion of two- and three-year-olds attending formal care.

Informal care was most common for children in one-parent families where the parent was employed (61 percent), and in two-parent families where both parents were employed (41 percent).

Care by a family member other than the parents or grandparents was most common for Maori and Pacific children in 2017.

The proportion of Maori schoolchildren cared for by grandparents rose slightly in 2017 compared with 2009, while the same care for preschool children fell over that time.

Hours and cost of informal care

In 2017, there was no cost to the parents of almost 90 percent of children attending informal care. Nearly half (47 percent) of the remaining group paid $50 or less a week.

More than half (60 percent) of children in informal care were there for 10 hours or less a week.

Care provided by another parent living elsewhere had the highest median length of time, at 32 hours a week. Preschool children were in this type of care for an average of 29 hours a week in 2017, up from 24 hours a week in 2009.