Labour to offer free childcare services – Dr Joseph Muscat

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Labour to offer free childcare services - Dr Joseph Muscat“A new Labour Government will provide Maltese and Gozitan families with childcare services free of charge. It is envisaged that this measure will encourage more parents, especially women, to join the labour market or retain their actual jobs.

“It is expected that this project will create hundreds of related jobs and can be implemented also through Public Private Partnerships.”

This was announced by the Leader of the Partit Laburista, Joseph Muscat, this morning at the PL Headquarters in Hamrun.

Joseph Muscat stated that the low participation rate of women in the labour market causes significant concern for our country. In fact it was also mentioned in the Standards & Poor’s report.

“This proposal will be encouraging more women to participate in the labour market, thus promoting economic growth whilst ensuring sustainability so that it does not become a burden on the tax payers,” affirmed the PL Leader.

Joseph Muscat explained that those eligible to take up this measure would include couples who are both in full-time employment and have children who are 3 or less years of age; couples where the female counterpart joins the labour market on a full-time basis for the first time and both partners remain in employment; as well as single parents, both male and female who are employed on a full-time basis. “It is envisaged that this programme will eventually also be extended to part-time employees on a pro-rata basis.”

The PL Leader said that this measure will cost €3.1million during the first year of implementation and gradually decrease so that by the fifth year this expense will be converted to a positive balance. “This proposal is expected to increase women’s participation in the labour market by another 2,500 to be added to the 9,600 who are expected to enter the labour market during the next 5 years.”

“Over a 5 year period, 3,000 places for children will be increased which are expected to bring about the creation of 500 new jobs for childcarers,” stated the PL Leader.

Joseph Muscat said that the private sector will be given the opportunity to work hand-in hand with Government on this programme. “The system will operate in the same way as the education system. Those parents who opt not to become part of this programme will continue benefitting from the tax reduction benefit. The private sector investment is protected since the free service will definitely increase the demand and Government will give preference to initiatives in partnership with the private sector.”

Joseph Muscat stressed the fact that children who are already in childcare facilities will also be eligible for this scheme. In fact the expense mentioned, incorporates also the children who are currently in childcare centres .

The Labour Leader concluded by saying that this proposal was made by the UHM and the Labour Party continued to develop it. He also said that this programme will give a new stimulus to our country’s economy through the creation of more jobs as well as more female participation in the labour market.

In response to Labour’s proposal, Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party said that it welcomed the fact that the Labour Party has endorsed the proposals of both AD and UHM for free childcare centres.

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said, “Child care services should be universally accessible and, in collaboration with the private sector, the State should provide free services to those who need them, in addition to more opportunities for teleworking, flexitime upon workers’ choice and other family-friendly measures.

“This should be coupled with other progressive measures such as an increase in minimum wage; increase in disability pension; and increase in parental leave, to 20 weeks, with the other partner benefitting from 2 weeks, as proposed within the EU. As regards the latter, the state should create a joint fund with the private sector to assist small and medium businesses in the implementation of this measure. AD is the only party proposing these progressive reforms.

“Gender equality mainstreaming should take place at all levels of society, including all levels of government and in the private sector. Malta is often the last among EU Member States when it comes to gender equality,” Michael Briguglio concluded.

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