Report on Government Services 2024
PART B, SECTION 3: RELEASED ON 5 FEBRUARY 2024
3 Early childhood education and care
This section reports on the performance of early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, which comprise child care and preschool services.
The Indicator results tab uses data from the data tables to provide information on the performance for each indicator in the Indicator framework. The same data is also available in CSV format.
- Indicator framework
- Indicator results
- Indigenous data
- Explanatory material
Objectives for ECEC services
ECEC services aim to meet the education, care and development needs of children, and meet the needs of families including enabling increased workforce participation, by providing universal access to early childhood education services for eligible children and accessible child care services that:
- are high quality, affordable, flexible and can be sustainably implemented across a range of settings
- are delivered in a safe, nurturing and inclusive environment
- target improved access for, and participation by, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
Governments aim for ECEC services to meet these objectives in an equitable and efficient manner.
The ECEC sector provides a range of services for children based on their age and education, care and development needs. ECEC services provide the following broad service types:
- Child care services – provide education and care services to children aged 0–12 years including the following service types: centre based day care; family day care; outside school hours care (OSHC); and other care. 'Explanatory material' tab includes definitions.
- Preschool services – are services that deliver a preschool program. A ‘preschool program’ is a structured, play‑based learning program, delivered by a degree qualified teacher, aimed at children in the year or two before they commence full-time schooling (table 3.1).
| Transition to primary school
Foundation year (year prior to Year 1)
|Age of entry – preschool program in year before full-time schooling (YBFS)
|Age of entry
|Generally aged 4 and 5 years
|5 years by 31 July
|4 years by 30 April
|5 years by 30 April
|4 years by 30 June
|5 years by 30 June
|4 years by 30 June
|5 years by 30 June
|4 years by 1 May
|5 years by 1 May
|4 years by 1 January
|5 years by 1 January
|4 years by 30 April
|5 years by 30 April
|4 years by 30 June
|5 years by 30 June
a From 2023 in Victoria, children aged 3 years can participate in kindergarten services in the year prior to YBFS.
b Early access to South Australian Government funded preschool is available to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children or children under the Guardianship of the Minister after their third birthday. In South Australia, the compulsory school starting age is 6 years at the oldest.
Source: State and territory governments (unpublished).
An ECEC service may offer more than one service type, such as centre based day care and OSHC (both child care services). The most common type of integrated service is a preschool program delivered within centre based day care. The range of service types offered differs across states and territories and between service providers.
ECEC services can also provide other non-education services such as maternal and child health services and family support services. The services provided differ according to community need, with more extensive services often being provided in disadvantaged communities.
Roles and responsibilities
The Australian, state and territory governments have different but complementary roles in ECEC. In 2022-23, the Australian Government’s main roles and responsibilities included:
- paying the Child Care Subsidy (CCS)1 which is generally paid directly to child care providers. The types of child care for which families receive subsidised care are in table 3.2
- providing funding to state and territory governments to support the achievement of reforms to improve preschool participation and outcomes, through the Preschool Reform Agreement (PRA)
- providing operational and capital funding to some providers.
|Funded child care services, for service types:
|Centre based day care
|Family day care
|In home care
|Funded preschool services / programs, in:
|Local government / community preschools
|For-profit centre based day care
|Not-for-profit centre based day care
Government provides funding to at least one of these services.
Government does not provide funding to any of these services.
a From 2023, the Victorian Government provided funding to children aged 3 and 4 years at participating kindergarten services. b In Tasmania, some child care services may receive funding under an annual, small capital grants (minor infrastructure) program. These services are not included in this table unless they also receive recurrent funding. c In the Australian Capital Territory, child care services and preschool services outside the government sector may receive support through capital grants, rental subsidies, and funding through budget initiatives. These services are not included in this table unless they also receive recurrent funding. d The Northern Territory Government also provides funding to three-year-old kindergarten services.
Source: Australian, state and territory governments (unpublished).
State and territory governments’ roles and responsibilities vary across jurisdictions but mainly include:
- funding and/or providing preschool services and, in some cases, providing funding to child care services (including some that also receive Australian Government funding)
- providing funding to support the implementation of the PRA
- regulating approved services under the National Quality Framework (NQF) and licensing and/or registering child care services not approved under the NQF
- implementing strategies to improve the quality of ECEC programs
- providing curriculum, information, support, advice, and training and development to ECEC providers.
Local governments also plan, fund and deliver ECEC, but due to data limitations, the only local government data included in this section is that involving Australian, state and territory government funding and/or licensing.
- The CCS replaced the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate from 2 July 2018. The Child Care Subsidy System (CCSS) was introduced to manage the payment and administration of the CCS and is the source of the data. There are some changes to reporting under the CCSS. In particular, the introduction of new categories centre based day care (a consolidation of long day care and occasional care previously reported separately) and outside school hours care (a consolidation of outside school hours care and vacation care previously reported separately) and no longer separately identifying Budget Based Funded services. Locate Footnote 1 above
Total Australian, state and territory real government recurrent and capital expenditure on ECEC services was $14.8 billion in 2022-23, an increase of 10.5% from 2021-22 (table 3A.1). Australian Government expenditure accounted for $11.6 billion (78.6%) and state and territory government expenditure $3.2 billion, with preschool services accounting for 83.3% of the state and territory government expenditure (figure 3.1).
Australian Government expenditure of $455.3 million allocated to state and territory governments in 2022-23 through the PRA (table 3A.4) is included under state and territory government expenditure.
Size and scope
Services delivering ECEC
In 20232, there were 14,382 Australian Government CCS approved child care services in Australia (table 3.3). Some child care services do not receive Australian Government funding and are funded by state and territory governments only or do not receive any government funding.
In 2022, there were 12,999 ECEC services in Australia delivering preschool programs (table 3.4). Of these services, 8,685 (66.8%) were delivered from centre based day care and the remainder were delivered from stand‑alone preschool services or preschool services attached to a school.
Children using ECEC
In 20233, 1,417,946 (34.5%) of children aged 0–12 years attended Australian Government CCS approved child care services, an increase of 6.3% from 1,334,232 in 2022 (table 3A.8). In each age group, the proportion of children attending approved child care services was the highest over the last ten years. The majority (59.3%) of children were attending centre based care services, followed by OSHC (39.6%) and family day care (5.6%) (table 3A.9).
In 2022, 553,542 children were enrolled in a preschool program, which includes children attending a preschool program for three-year-olds (table 3A.10)4. Of these children, 284,086 were enrolled in a preschool program in the state-specific year before full-time schooling (YBFS) (table 3A.11). The total enrolment figure provides an estimate of service activity, whilst the state-specific YBFS enrolment figure provides an estimate of the cohort for whom the year of preschool is in the year before they are anticipated to attend full-time school.
Estimated resident population for children aged 0–12 years at 31 December and children aged 3–5 years at 30 June are available in tables 3A.12 and 3A.13 respectively. Population estimates for children aged in their state-specific YBFS are available in table 3A.14.
- & 3. Data for 2023 related to Australian Government CCS approved child care services is for the March quarter. Locate Footnote 2 above Locate Footnote 3 above
- Data reported for three-year-olds enrolled in a preschool program may be incomplete due to different reporting arrangements in each jurisdiction. Locate Footnote 4 above
The performance indicator framework provides information on equity, efficiency and effectiveness, and distinguishes the outputs and outcomes of ECEC services.
The performance indicator framework shows which data is complete and comparable in this report. For data that is not considered directly comparable, text includes relevant caveats and supporting commentary. Section 1 discusses data comparability and completeness from a report-wide perspective. In addition to the contextual information for this service area (see Context tab), the report’s statistical context (Section 2) contains data that may assist in interpreting the performance indicators presented in this section.
Improvements to performance reporting for ECEC services are ongoing and include identifying data sources to fill gaps in reporting for performance indicators and measures, and improving the comparability and completeness of data.
Outputs are the services delivered (while outcomes are the impact of these services on the status of an individual or group) (see section 1). Output information is also critical for equitable, efficient and effective management of government services.
Outcomes are the impact of services on the status of an individual or group (see section 1).
Text version of indicator framework
Performance – linked to Objectives
- Equity – Access
- ECEC participation by selected equity groups – most recent data for at least one measure is comparable and complete
- Effectiveness – Access
- ECEC participation – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
- Parent costs for ECEC services – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
- Effectiveness – Appropriateness
- Non-standard hours of care in child care services – most recent data for all measures is either not comparable and/or not complete
- Demand for ECEC – no data reported and/or no measures yet developed
- Effectiveness – Quality
- Staff quality in ECEC – most recent data for at least one measure is comparable and complete
- NQF quality and compliance – most recent data for at least one measure is comparable or complete
- Serious incidents – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
- Effectiveness – Sustainability
- Workforce sustainability – no data reported and/or no measures yet developed
- Efficiency – Inputs per output unit
- Government recurrent expenditure per child – most recent data for at least one measure is comparable and complete
- Family work-related needs for child care – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
- ECEC outcomes – most recent data for all measures is comparable and complete
A description of the comparability and completeness is provided under the Indicator results tab for each measure.
An overview of the ECEC services performance indicator results is presented. Different delivery contexts, locations and types of clients can affect the equity, effectiveness and efficiency of ECEC services.
Information to assist the interpretation of this data can be found with the indicators below and all data (footnotes and data sources) is available for download above as an excel spreadsheet and as a CSV dataset. Data tables are identified by a ‘3A’ prefix (for example, table 3A.1).
Specific data used in figures can be downloaded by clicking in the figure area, navigating to the bottom of the visualisation to the grey toolbar, clicking on the 'Download' icon and selecting 'Data' from the menu. Selecting 'PDF' or 'Powerpoint' from the 'Download' menu will download a static view of the performance indicator results.
1. ECEC participation by selected equity groups
‘ECEC participation by selected equity groups’ is an indicator of governments’ objective to provide ECEC services in an equitable manner, and that there is access for, and participation of, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
‘ECEC participation by selected equity groups’ is defined by two measures:
- Children using child care – the proportion of children enrolled in Australian Government CCS approved child care services who are from selected equity groups, compared with their representation in the community, for those aged 0–5, 6–12 and 0–12 years
- Preschool program participation – the proportion of children enrolled in a preschool program in the state-specific YBFS who are from selected equity groups, compared with the representation of these groups in the community for those aged 4–5 years. This measure is also reported for children aged 3–5 years.
Selected equity groups include children:
- who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
- from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB)
- from regional and remote areas
- from low-income families (measure 1 only), or from low socio-economic areas (measure 2 only). A low socio-economic area is defined for measure 2 to be children residing in an area with a Socio-economic Indexes for Areas Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage quintile of 1
- with disability.
A high or increasing ECEC participation rate is desirable. Equitable access is suggested if participation of selected equity groups is similar to their representation in the community.
Nationally, children from selected equity groups had lower participation in child care than their representation in the community, except for children with disability aged 0–5 years (figure 3.2a).
Nationally, children from low socio-economic and remote areas, from NESB and children with disability had lower participation in preschool in the state-specific YBFS than the representation of children aged 4–5 years in the community. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and children from regional areas it was higher (figure 3.2b).
For children aged 3–5 years, participation of selected equity groups in a preschool program is lower than their representation in the community (table 3A.17).
2. ECEC participation
‘ECEC participation’ is an indicator of governments’ objective to ensure that ECEC services are accessible.
‘ECEC participation’ is defined by two measures:
- Children using child care – the proportion of children who are enrolled in Australian Government CCS approved child care services by age group (0–5, 6–12 and 0–12 years)
- Preschool program participation – the proportion of children who are enrolled in a preschool program in the state-specific YBFS.
A higher or increasing proportion of children participating in ECEC services is desirable. However, this indicator can be difficult to interpret as this indicator does not provide information on parental preferences for using child care and preschool.
Nationally in 2023, 34.5% of children aged 0–12 years attended Australian Government CCS approved child care, up from 28.9% in 2014. Attendance by children aged 0–5 years in 2023 was 49.9% compared with attendance of those aged 6–12 years which was 22.2% (figure 3.3a).
Nationally, average hours of attendance per child was 33.0 hours per week for centre based day care and 24.9 hours per week for family day care, but considerably less for OSHC at 10.1 hours per week (table 3A.18).
Nationally in 2022, 89.1% of children were enrolled in a preschool program in the state-specific YBFS, up from 87.2% in 2021 (figure 3.3b).
To be considered as enrolled, the child must have attended the preschool program for at least one hour during the reference period or be absent due to illness or extended holiday leave and expected to return. State and territory data is based on the location of the child’s residence.
In 2022, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children had a higher enrolment rate in a preschool program in the state-specific YBFS (98.7%) compared to all children (tables 3A.11 and 3A.19). This trend has been consistent over the last four years. The majority of all children and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enrolled in a preschool program aged in the state-specific YBFS were enrolled for at least 15 hours per week (96.9% and 97.1% respectively) (tables 3A.20 and 3A.21).
3. Parent costs for ECEC services
‘Parent costs for ECEC services’ is an indicator of governments’ objective to ensure that ECEC services are affordable.
‘Parent costs for ECEC services’ is defined by three measures:
- Child care service costs – the median weekly cost for 50 hours of Australian Government CCS approved centre based day care and family day care. Costs are before the reduction due to the CCS or Child Care Rebate.
- Child care costs as a proportion of weekly disposable income – the proportion of weekly disposable income that families spend on centre based day care and family day care before and after the payment of child care subsidies, for families with two income earners with a 60:40 income split and gross annual income of $35,000, $55,000, $75,000, $95,000, $115,000, $135,000, $155,000, $175,000, $195,000, $215,000, $235,000, $255,000, $275,000 and $295,000. This proportion is reported for families with one child attending centre based day care or family day care for 30 hours
- Preschool program costs – the median hourly cost of a preschool program (after subsidies) per child enrolled aged 4 and 5 years.
Median costs represent the middle value of the range of costs.
Provided the service quality is held constant, lower median service costs are desirable. While a similar proportion of income spent across income groups suggests a more equitable outcome, families who use more care per week are expected to face higher out‑of‑pocket costs.
Various factors influence ECEC costs and care needs to be exercised when interpreting results, as:
- fees are set independently by ECEC service providers and there is significant variation in the fees across services
- costs are influenced by a number of factors including NQF approval requirements, award wages, and whether fees include charges for additional services such as nappies and meals, as well as localised issues such as land values and rental costs, rates, and other localised costs of living
- median costs data may reflect particular scenarios of ECEC use and family income level, so do not reflect the out‑of‑pocket costs by families at varying levels of income or care usage
- for preschool program costs, there are a mix of providers (community, private and government). Differences in charging practices can be due to commercial or cost recovery decisions made by individual services. Some preschool programs, particularly those offered at government preschool services, have no tuition fees.
The median weekly cost for 50 hours of care in 2023 was higher for centre based day care ($610) than for family day care ($577) (figure 3.4a). Median weekly costs differ across remoteness areas. In 2023, the median weekly cost of centre based day care in major cities and inner regional areas ($613) was higher than in outer regional and remote areas ($575) (table 3A.22).
Nationally in 2023, child care subsidies reduced the out‑of‑pocket costs for families with one child in 30 hours of child care for all family income categories. However, the subsidies had a greater impact (as a proportion of family income) for lower income families, reducing the variation in the child care costs across income categories (table 3A.23).
Across jurisdictions in 2023, the out‑of‑pocket costs after subsidies for families with one child in 30 hours of child care, as a proportion of weekly disposable income (after subsidies), were similar for centre based day care and family day care (figure 3.4b). After subsidies, the out-of-pocket costs for both centre based day care and family day care were generally higher for families with a gross income of around $155,000 to $195,000 compared to the other income levels (table 3A.23).
Nationally, the median cost per hour for a preschool program (after subsidies) per child was $2.88 in 2022, up from $2.05 in 2021 (figure 3.4c). Median hourly costs differ across remoteness areas. In 2022, the median hourly cost of preschool programs (after subsidies) in major cities was $3.24, compared to $2.00 in regional areas (table 3A.25).
4. Non‑standard hours of care in child care services
‘Non‑standard hours of care in child care services’ is an indicator of governments’ objective to ensure that government funded child care services are accessible and flexible.
‘Non‑standard hours of care in child care services’ is defined as the proportion of Australian Government CCS approved child care services that provide non‑standard hours of care, by service type. Definitions of ‘standard hours of care’ and ‘non‑standard hours of care’ are provided in the 'Explanatory material' tab.
A high or increasing proportion of services providing non‑standard hours of care can suggest greater flexibility of services to meet the needs of families. That said, this indicator does not provide information on demand for non‑standard hours of care or whether available non‑standard hours services meet the needs of users.
Provision of non‑standard hours of care can be influenced by a range of factors, such as costs to services and parents, demand for care, availability of carers, and compliance with legislative requirements.
In the March quarter 2023, 42.8% of all CCS approved child care services provided non-standard hours of care, with 41.1% providing care before 7am on weekdays. In this quarter, 60.0% of in-home care services provided non-standard hours of care, followed by family day care (55.1%), OSHC (42.9%) and 42.1% of centre based day care services (table 3.5).
5. Demand for ECEC
‘Demand for ECEC’ is an indicator of governments’ objective to ensure that ECEC services are accessible.
‘Demand for ECEC’ is defined as the proportion of children aged 0–12 years for whom additional formal child care or preschool services were currently required.
Additional care currently required refers to children who were already attending formal child care or preschool and parents wished for them to attend more, as well as children who did not attend any formal child care or preschool and parents wished for them to attend.
An increasing proportion of children with expressed need for additional ECEC may suggest that additional services are required.
Data is no longer available for reporting against this indicator. Previous data reported for this indicator is available in older editions of the report.
6. Staff quality in ECEC
‘Staff quality in ECEC’ is an indicator of governments’ objective to ensure that ECEC services are high quality.
‘Staff quality in ECEC’ is defined by two measures:
- The proportion of paid primary contact staff employed by Australian Government CCS approved child care services with a relevant formal qualification (at or above Certificate level III), or three or more years of relevant experience.
- The proportion of teachers accessible to preschool programs (across all ECEC services) who are at least three year university trained and early childhood qualified.
High or increasing proportions are desirable due to the link between education levels of ECEC staff and children’s learning outcomes.
In 2021, 82.1% of the 183,315 paid primary contact staff employed by Australian Government CCS approved child care services had a relevant formal qualification (at or above Certificate level III), or three or more years of relevant experience (figure 3.5a). Of all paid primary contact staff, 11.5% held a Bachelor degree or above, 38.1% held a Diploma or Advanced Diploma, and 26.4% held a Certificate III or IV (table 3A.27).
In 2021, 64.7% of the 35,462 teachers delivering preschool programs were at least three-year university trained and early childhood qualified (figure 3.5b). Over half (53.2%) of teachers delivering preschool programs were four-year university trained or above and early childhood qualified (table 3A.28).
7. NQF quality and compliance
‘NQF quality and compliance’ is an indicator of governments’ objectives to ensure that ECEC services are high quality and are delivered in a safe, nurturing and inclusive environment.
‘NQF quality and compliance’ is defined by two measures:
- Achievement of National Quality Standard (NQS) – defined as the proportion of NQF approved services with a quality rating, whose overall NQS rating is: ‘Meeting NQS’, ‘Exceeding NQS’ or ‘Excellent’.
Services receive an overall rating of Meeting NQS if they are rated as Meeting or Exceeding NQS in all seven quality areas. Services receive an overall rating of Exceeding NQS if four or more quality areas are rated as Exceeding NQS, including two of the four following quality areas: Quality Area 1, Quality Area 5, Quality Area 6 and Quality Area 7. The Excellent rating can only be awarded by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), on application by the Approved Provider (ACECQA 2019). The 'Explanatory material' tab includes further information on NQS achievement.
A high proportion of services that achieve the NQS suggests a high quality of service provision.
- Confirmed breaches – defined as the number of confirmed breaches by NQF approved services, per 100 NQF approved services.
A confirmed breach is when a regulatory authority finds that a provider, nominated supervisor or family day care educator has failed to abide by relevant legislation, regulations or conditions at an NQF approved service.
Breaches vary in circumstance and severity. Some breaches can have serious implications for the quality of care provided to children (such as requirements to undertake criminal record checks for staff and requirements to install smoke detectors). Other breaches do not necessarily directly affect the quality of care (such as requirements to display NQF approval information).
All else being equal, a low or decreasing rate of confirmed breaches can suggest a higher quality service. A high or increasing rate of confirmed breaches does not necessarily mean that a jurisdiction has lower service safety and quality, as it might mean it has a more effective reporting and monitoring regime.
The majority of ECEC services are approved and regulated under the NQF, including child care services (centre based day care, family day care, vacation care and OSHC) and preschool services. As at 30 June 2023, there were 17,322 NQF approved ECEC services nationally – up from 16,986 in 2022 (table 3A.29). Some ECEC services are licensed and/or registered to operate by state and territory governments, but are not approved under the NQF, including occasional care and mobile preschools (state and territory governments, unpublished).
At 30 June 2023, 91.0% of NQF approved services had received a quality rating, with 21.0% of services assessed or reassessed in the previous 12 months (table 3A.29). Overall, 91.1% of centre based day care services and 86.4% of family day care services have received a quality rating.
At 30 June 2023, of the NQF approved services that had been rated, 89.1% achieved the NQS (65.0% met, 23.9% exceeded, and 0.2% were excellent) – up from 87.5% in the previous 12 months (figure 3.6).
The proportion of NQF approved services with a rating level that achieved the NQS was highest for quality areas 6 (Collaborative partnerships with families and communities – 97.8%), 5 (relationships with children – 97.7%) and 4 (staffing arrangements – 97.1%). The quality area with the lowest proportion of services that achieved the NQS was quality area 1 (educational program and practice – 92.4%) (table 3A.31).
Nationally in 2022-23, there were 192.6 confirmed breaches per 100 NQF approved services, up from 162.2 in the previous year. The highest rate was for family day care (629.9 breaches per 100 services), followed by centre based day care services with 237.0 breaches (table 3.6a).
8. Serious incidents
‘Serious incidents’ is an indicator of governments’ objective to ensure that ECEC services are delivered in a safe environment.
‘Serious incidents’ is defined as the number of serious incidents that have occurred at NQF approved services, per 100 NQF approved services. Serious incidents are incidents that seriously compromise the health, safety or wellbeing of children attending an ECEC service.
The scope of the serious incidents indicator is NQF approved services. Under regulation, an NQF approved service must notify the regulatory authority (within 24 hours) of any serious incident that involves a child that was being educated and cared for by an ECEC service.
Serious incidents includes any incidents: involving the death of a child; involving serious injury or trauma to, or illness of, a child; where the attendance of emergency services was sought (or ought reasonably to have been sought); and where a child has been locked in/out, removed from the premises in contravention of regulations, or is unaccounted for. More information on 'serious incidents' is in the 'Explanatory material' tab.
A low or decreasing rate of serious incidents may suggest safer ECEC services. Caution should be used in interpreting results within and across jurisdictions as variations may be affected by differences in the number of children (or hours of service delivery) per service. Nationally comparable data is not currently available on the number of children enrolled (or hours of service delivery provided) in NQF approved services. It should also be noted that the rate of serious incidents reflects the reporting practices of approved providers which can vary.
Nationally in 2022-23, there were 139.4 serious incidents per 100 NQF approved services, up from 123.8 in 2021-22 (figure 3.7). The majority of incidents involved serious injury or trauma to, or illness of, a child (77.8% of all serious incidents) followed by incidents where the attendance of emergency services was sought (or ought reasonably to have been sought) (12.6%) (table 3A.33).
9. Workforce sustainability
‘Workforce sustainability’ is an indicator of governments’ objective to provide sustainable ECEC services.
ECEC workforce sustainability relates to the capacity of the ECEC workforce to meet current and projected future service demand. These measures are not a substitute for a full workforce analysis that allows for training, migration, changing patterns of work and expected future demand. They can, however, indicate that further attention should be given to workforce planning for ECEC services.
This indicator is currently under development for reporting in the future.
10. Government recurrent expenditure per child
‘Government recurrent expenditure per child’ is an indicator of governments’ objective for ECEC services to be efficient.
Government recurrent expenditure per child is defined by two measures:
- Total government recurrent expenditure on ECEC per child in ECEC – the combined Australian Government and state and territory government recurrent expenditure on ECEC per child in ECEC (children in child care and preschool services).
- Australian Government recurrent expenditure per child attending CCS approved child care – the Australian Government recurrent expenditure per child aged 0–12 years attending Australian Government CCS approved child care services.
Efficiency data should be interpreted with care because:
- changes in expenditure per child could represent changes in government funding policy. While high or increasing unit costs can reflect deteriorating efficiency, they can also reflect increases in the quality or quantity of service provided. Similarly, low or declining expenditure per child can reflect improving efficiency or lower quality or quantity. Provided the level and quality of, and access to, services remain unchanged, lower expenditure per child can indicate greater efficiency of government expenditure
- differences in reported efficiency results across jurisdictions can reflect differences in definitions and counting and reporting rules.
All Australian Government recurrent expenditure reported for this indicator is provided for child care services, whereas state and territory government recurrent expenditure covers both child care and preschool services.
In 2022-23, combined Australian Government and state and territory government real recurrent expenditure on ECEC services per child in ECEC was $9,315, an increase of 3.4% from 2021-22 (figure 3.8a).
Contextual data on the combined government recurrent expenditure on ECEC per child aged 0–12 years in the community is in table 3A.35.
Australian Government real recurrent expenditure per child attending CCS approved child care services was $8,181 in 2022-23, up from $7,984 in 2021-22 (figure 3.8b).
11. Family work‑related needs for child care
‘Family work‑related needs for child care’ is an indicator of governments’ objective for ECEC services to meet the needs of families, including enabling increased workforce participation.
‘Family work‑related needs for child care’ is defined as the proportion of people aged 15 years or over not in the labour force due to caring for children, who report the main reason for not being in the labour force as child care service‑related.
A relatively small or decreasing proportion of people not in the labour force due to caring for children who report the main reason for not being in the labour force as child care service‑related may indicate that services are meeting the needs of families. However, there are a number of factors which affect the labour force participation decisions of people responsible for caring for children, of which child care service‑related reasons are a subset. Also, due to the subjective nature of self‑reporting, care should be taken when interpreting the data, particularly for child care service‑related reasons.
The ABS data used for reporting against this indicator is collected in February of each year.
Of the 250,900 people aged 15 years or over who in 2023 reported that they were not in the labour force due to caring for children, 28.3% reported this was due to a child care service-related reason (figure 3.9).
The most common child care service-related reason provided for not being in the labour force was the cost of child care (23.4%). The most common non-child care service related reason was a preference to look after children (30.7%) or children were ‘too young or too old’ for child care services (19.3%) (table 3A.37).
12. ECEC outcomes
‘ECEC outcomes’ is an indicator of governments’ objective to provide ECEC services that meet the education, care, and development needs of children.
‘ECEC outcomes’ is defined as the proportion of children with ECEC experience who are developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains of the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC).
The AEDC collects data from teachers on the early childhood development of children when they are in their first year of full-time schooling. Children are considered developmentally vulnerable in a domain if they score below the 10th percentile. The domains are: language and cognitive skills; physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; and communication skills and general knowledge.
A low proportion of children who received ECEC reported as developmentally vulnerable is desirable and a lower proportion of children who received some ECEC reported as developmentally vulnerable compared to children who did not receive any ECEC could indicate that receiving ECEC leads to better development outcomes. However, results should be interpreted with caution as:
- the data report on the correlation between ECEC experience and development outcomes. The causal impact of ECEC experience on development outcomes cannot be determined from the data
- ECEC experience is just one factor contributing to development. A range of other factors also influence development outcomes, including parental and family circumstances and other services such as health and parenting support
- ECEC experience is reported by the teacher, and therefore, dependent on the teacher’s knowledge of the child’s previous experience
- the data do not include how much ECEC (for example, hours per week) children received
- not all children in the dataset have a complete response for whether or not they attended ECEC.
In 2021, 22.0% of children in their first year of full-time schooling were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains – slightly higher than 2018 and the same as 2015 and 2012. Children who received some ECEC were less likely to be developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains (20.3% in 2021, higher than previous years), compared to children who did not receive any ECEC (40.7% in 2021, up from 2018, 2015 and 2012) (figure 3.10).
Performance indicator data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this section are available in the data tables listed below. Further supporting information can be found in the 'Indicator results' tab and data tables.
|Proportion of children attending Australian Government CCS approved child care services who are from selected equity groups, compared with their representation in the community
|Proportion of children enrolled in a preschool program in the state-specific YBFS who are from selected equity groups compared with the representation of children aged 4–5 years in the community
|Proportion of children enrolled in a preschool program aged 3–5 years who are from selected equity groups, compared with their representation in the community
|Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enrolled in a preschool program aged in the state-specific YBFS, by remoteness
|Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enrolled in a preschool program aged in the state-specific YBFS, by weekly hours
Expenditure on the acquisition or enhancement of fixed assets, less trade‑in values and/or receipts from the sale of replaced or otherwise disposed of items. Capital expenditure does not include expenditure on fixed assets which fall below threshold capitalisation levels, depreciation or costs associated with maintaining, renting or leasing equipment.
Centre based day care
An education and care service other than a family day care service which includes most long day care, preschool and OSHC services that are delivered at a centre.
Children from low‑income families
Children in families with gross income (excluding Family Tax Benefit) of less than the annual income threshold for receiving the maximum rate of CCS.
Children from non‑English speaking backgrounds (NESB)
Children living in situations where the main language spoken at home is not English.
Children with disability
A child that has a need for additional assistance in any of the following areas (learning and applying knowledge, education; communication; mobility; self‑care; interpersonal interactions and relationships; other‑ including general tasks, domestic life, community and social life) compared to children of a similar age, that is related to underlying long term health condition or disability (long term is longer than six months).
Data is considered comparable if (subject to caveats) it can be used to inform an assessment of comparative performance. Typically, data is considered comparable when collected in the same way and in accordance with the same definitions. For comparable indicators or measures, significant differences in reported results allow an assessment of differences in performance, rather than being the result of anomalies in the data.
Data is considered complete if all required data is available for all jurisdictions that provide the service.
Family day care
Services providing small group early childhood education and care services for children in the home environment of a registered carer. Family day care is primarily aimed at children aged 0–5 years, but primary school children may also receive the service before and after school, and during school holidays. Staff work in partnership with scheme management and coordination unit staff.
Formal child care
Organised education and care provided by a person other than the child’s parent or guardian, usually outside of the child’s home – includes, long day care, family day care, OSHC, vacation care, occasional care (excluding babysitting), other care and in home care.
Early childhood‑related teaching degree (three or four years), a child care certificate or associate diploma (two years) and/or other relevant qualifications (for example, a diploma or degree in child care [three years], primary teaching, other teaching, nursing [including mothercraft nursing], psychology and social work).
In home care
Education and care service provided by an approved carer in the child’s home. Families eligible for in home care include those where the parent(s) or child has an illness/disability, those in regional or remote areas, those where the parents are working shift work or non‑standard hours, those with multiple births (more than two) and/or more than two children under school age, and those with a breastfeeding mother working from home.
Long day care
Services aimed primarily at children aged 0–5 years that are provided in a centre, usually by a mix of qualified and other staff. Educational, care and recreational programs are provided based on the developmental needs, interests and experience of each child. In some jurisdictions, primary school children may also receive care before and after school, and during school vacations. Some long day care centres may also provide preschool and kindergarten services (i.e. a preschool program) and OSHC (see relevant definitions). Long day care services may operate from stand‑alone or shared premises, including on school grounds.
National Quality Framework (NQF)
The NQF came into effect from 1 January 2012 and is a national system jointly governed by the Australian Government and state and territory governments. It aims to raise quality and enable continuous improvement in ECEC through:
NQF approved services
Under the NQF, an approved provider must apply for and be granted a service approval for each education and care service it wants to operate. There are two types of approved services under the NQF: centre based care services; and family day care services.
National Quality Standard (NQS) achievement
NQF approved services are rated against the NQS. Under the NQS, a service’s overall quality rating is based on:
Standards, quality areas and the overall quality rating are assessed on a four point scale:
In addition, a provider with a service that has an overall rating of Exceeding NQS, as well as a rating of Exceeding NQS in all seven quality areas, may choose to apply to ACECQA to be assessed for the Excellent rating.
The current version of the NQS commenced in all states and territories on 1 February 2018. Prior to this, a service’s overall quality rating was based on 58 elements across 18 standards and seven quality areas.
Non‑standard hours of care
Defined by service type as:
Services usually provided at a centre on an hourly or sessional basis for short periods or at irregular intervals for parents who need time to attend appointments, take care of personal matters, undertake casual and part time employment, study or have temporary respite from full-time parenting. These services provide developmental education and care activities for children, and are primarily aimed at children aged 0–5 years. Centres providing these services usually employ a mix of qualified and other staff.
A child care service type in this report that does not meet any of the other child care service type definitions. It may include services which support children with additional needs or in particular situations (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children from NESB, children with disability or of parents with disability, and children living in regional and remote areas). Other care services may include three-year-old preschool (or kindergarten) services (which do not meet the preschool service definition because they are not delivered by a qualified teacher), mobile services, playschools and nannies. Usage of other care services is reported only for state and territory government funded services (i.e. non‑CCS approved services).
Outside school hours care (OSHC)
Services that provide care for school aged children before school, after school, during school holidays, and on pupil free days. OSHC may use stand‑alone facilities, share school buildings and grounds and/or share facilities such as community halls.
A preschool program is a structured, play‑based learning program, delivered by a degree qualified teacher, aimed at children in the year or two before they commence full-time schooling. This is irrespective of the type of institution that provides it or whether it is government funded and/or privately provided. Preschool programs are often referred to by other terms such as early childhood education, early learning or kindergarten.
Services which deliver a preschool program. The preschool service type can be delivered from a range of service settings. Service settings include stand‑alone preschools or kindergartens, preschools attached to a school and other service centres, such as long day care centres.
Primary contact staff
Staff whose primary function is to provide child care and/or preschool services to children.
A degree qualified early childhood teacher who meets the requirements of the NQF. The ACECQA publishes a list of approved and former approved early childhood teaching qualifications.
Actual expenditure adjusted for changes in prices. Adjustments were made using the General Government Final Consumption Expenditure price deflator and expressed in terms of final year prices.
Expenditure that does not result in the creation or acquisition of fixed assets (new or second hand). It consists mainly of expenditure on wages, salaries and supplements, purchases of goods and services, and the consumption of fixed capital (depreciation).
Regional and remote areas
Regional and remote areas refer to remoteness areas based on the ABS’ Australian Statistical Geography Standard. The criteria for remoteness areas are based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia, which measures the remoteness of a point based on the physical road distance to the nearest urban centre in each of five size classes. Regional areas includes ‘inner regional’ and ‘outer regional’ areas. Remote areas includes ‘remote’ and ‘very remote’ areas.
Selected equity groups
An identifiable group within the general population who can have special difficulty accessing services. Selected equity groups for which data are reported in this section include: children from NESB; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children; children from low‑income families (CCS approved child care services only); children with disability; and children from regional or remote areas.
For the purposes of the Education and Care Services National Law, the following are prescribed as serious incidents:
A service refers to an individual location or establishment providing an ECEC service or services. One service (i.e. location or establishment) may provide more than one ECEC service type, i.e. provide a long day care service and preschool service, or two child care service types.
Refers to the following categories of ECEC services: long day care; family day care; OSHC; before/after school care; vacation care; occasional care; in home care, and; other care preschool services.
All service type categories are considered child care services, except for preschool services.
Standard hours of care
Defined by service type as:
Also see non‑standard hours of care definition.
State and territory government (only) funded
State and territory government financed services – in particular, services that only receive state and territory government contributions towards providing a specified service (i.e. excluding services which receive Australian Government funding).
State-specific year before full‑time schooling (YBFS)
Preschool programs delivered to children in the state-specific YBFS are intended to be available for 15 hours a week, or 600 hours per year (as per the PRA). Children aged 3–6 years may be enrolled in a preschool program in the state-specific YBFS although the programs are typically delivered to 4 and 5-year-olds.
The state‑specific YBFS population is made up of an age range of children specific to each state based on that state's preschool and school starting age provisions.
State-specific YBFS data presented in this report are not fully comparable with YBFS data prior to 2016, included in previous reports, due to changes in the YBFS methodology.
For more information on the state‑specific YBFS methodology see Preschool Education methodology (ABS 2023).
Services provided for children aged 4–12 years enrolled in schools during the school holidays.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2023, Preschool Education methodology, 2022, https://www.abs.gov.au/methodologies/preschool-education-methodology/2022 (accessed 4 April 2023).
ACECQA (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority) 2023, Guide to the National Quality Framework, https://www.acecqa.gov.au/national-quality-framework/guide-nqf (accessed 5 October 2023).
Note: An errata was released for section 3 Early childhood education and care above on 22 February 2024.
The following changes have been made to section 3:
- Figure 3.4b (performance indicator 3) and data table 3A.23 was amended to correct data for Western Australia, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory for out-of-pocket costs of child care for families with one child in 30 hours child care, as a proportion of weekly disposable income, by selected service type and gross family income for 2023.