Reports propose help for local working families

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SAN DIEGO --  A pair of reports released Monday highlight how San Diego County's governments, school districts, workforce agencies and local employers can boost economic growth by supporting working parents.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership and The San Diego Foundation, in a report titled "Workforce + Child Care," link child care and economic development, noting that in 70% of San Diego families with children under 12, both parents in the household are working.

Because child care options are scarce, inconvenient, unaffordable and of varying quality in the San Diego region, working parents can be forced to leave their jobs, not enter the workforce at all or struggle to balance a career and childrearing, according to the report.

The San Diego Foundation, Workforce Partnership and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce unveiled two new studies hoping to help employers better support working parents.  One single mom addressed the group perfectly illustrating the challenges facing working parents who are forced to place their kids in childcare.

"It was difficult. I love my job. I love my job being a parent and I love my job working for the police department," one woman told FOX 5. "Good child care runs from $15 to $20 dollars an hour.  I work 10 hour shift  and have a 30 minute commute."

Employers overwhelmingly say they value supporting employees with families to improve talent attraction, retention and productivity, but small employers -- which comprise the great majority of employers in the region -- are often unsure how to provide meaningful support at an affordable cost, the report found.

The authors concluded the optimal child care and workforce system requires the county and city governments, school districts, employers, funders, parents and nonprofit agencies to join efforts in a half-dozen areas, including expanding the supply of child care; making more jobs friendly; and making use of all available state or federal funding.

"We have parents really struggling to hold down jobs because their child care arrangements are so tenuous or expensive. That means we're leaving talent on the table, which we simply cannot do in this economy when employers are desperate to fill jobs," said Peter Callstrom, president and CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership.

"When we start to prioritize child care as a region, we will reap dividends for our current workforce and employers as well as for our future workforce -- our children," he said.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce report, "Supporting Working Families," covers employer perceptions about benefits provided to support working families.

According to the report, employers offering a range of benefits -- including parental leave, lactation rooms and child care -- "gain a competitive edge when it comes to candidate recruitment, team retention and increased productivity."

"Companies must also get to know their employees," said Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders. "There are many more parents, grandparents and guardians in the work force than most companies’ executives realize."

Sanders said employers can better support working parents, which will help them with competitiveness and increase the bottom line.

"This is about leading by example and demonstrating a respect for working families," Sanders added. "It has been shown that it benefits companies across the board, not just working families.”

The analysis offers seven considerations for employers to support working families and recommends the following three low- and no-cost ways they can get started:

  • allow employee to use pre-tax dollars to pay for childcare;
  • create a peer group for parents; and
  • establish clear boundaries between work and home.

Sanders said workplace culture "is more and more important to building strong, lasting, and productive teams."

"As workplaces continue to evolve, the more employers can stay ahead of the curve and meet the needs of their workers, the happier and more productive those employees will be," he said. "If we can raise awareness across the region of how to best support working families, we can make great strides in our success as a region."

The full San Diego Workforce Partnership and San Diego Foundation report is available at https://childcare.workforce.org/what-can-we-do/.  More on the chamber's report can be found at https://sdchamber.org/foundation/regional-jobs-strategy/ .

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