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Why Businesses Are Pushing for Better Child Care in America

February 12, 2018
Jennifer Levitz
The Wall Street Journal

Stephanie Jamieson, a 37-year-old working mother, is losing her child-care provider later this year and fears that a dearth of options could impinge on her ability to keep working.

In Ludington, Mich., the lakeside city of 8,000 where Ms. Jamieson lives with her husband, a title examiner, and 3-year-old son, local day-care centers have long wait lists. “It’s frustrating not knowing if I’m going to find something in time,” she said.

Her boss is fretting, too. John Wilson, chief executive officer of Western Land Services, doesn’t want to lose Ms. Jamieson, manager of the title division there. He has swung in action, joining a group of Michigan business leaders to push for state legislative action to improve child care.

“With this labor shortage, businesses are having to dig deeper into their employees lives to figure out what’s holding them back,” Mr. Wilson said, “when in the past, they didn’t have to think about it.”

Historically low unemployment is forcing headway on an issue that has been around since women entered the workforce: child care. Businesses increasingly see it as an issue vital to their operations and communities, and policy makers from New Hampshire to Michigan to Colorado have identified it as key to freeing up workers to fill stubborn vacancies and building a talent pipeline.

In Louisiana, a coalition of corporate and university leaders delivered a blunt assessment in a mid-January op-ed in the Shreveport Times : “One of the fixes to our labor shortage is as obvious as the fact that the snow is frozen: Make it easier for parents to get quality, affordable child care.”

In Washington, Congress early Friday passed a budget deal that when written into detailed spending legislation in the coming weeks would add $5.8 billion over two years to a federal program that helps states provide child care to low-income families.

Robert Varnedoe, president of Lee Container , a Georgia-based plastic container company, said retaining workers at its Iowa manufacturing operation has grown “extremely hard.”