A persistent labor shortage and Biden administration incentives for chip makers are motivating more companies to explore on-site childcare
By Te-Ping Chen
Wall Street Journal
On-site daycare is a rarity in American workplaces, but new government incentives and companies eager to attract and retain talent could soon make that benefit more common.
The Biden administration last week outlined a novel proviso in its $53 billion plan to revitalize the U.S. semiconductor industry. Chip makers seeking manufacturing subsidies under the Chips Act are expected to ensure employees have access to affordable, quality child care. It didn’t spell out how companies should provide or pay for the care, but the “commitment will be essential to getting people—especially women—into the workforce,” the Commerce Department said.
Though relatively small in number, more employers are acting on that sentiment and providing child care, according to the Best Place for Working Parents, a network of 1,700 businesses promoting family-friendly employer policies. Nearly 11% of the network’s members provided on-site child care between April 2021 and September 2022, either on their own or run by outside providers. That share is up from 9.3% in the first year of the pandemic, and 5.5% in the months before pandemic lockdowns began in March 2020.
A big reason, many of them say, is to better recruit working parents, some of whom shifted to part-time work or left the labor force altogether amid a pandemic-fueled exodus of child-care workers.
“It’s one of our top attraction and retention tools,” says Judy Fennimore, vice president of benefits at Marriott International Inc., which last year expanded its existing child-care services with a bigger daycare and preschool area at its new Bethesda, Md., global headquarters.
The country is about 58,000 daycare workers, or around 6%, short of February 2020 levels, an analysis of federal data by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley shows. Among women who dropped out of the workforce in the Covid-19 era, one-third said the lack or expense of child care was a top reason, while 20% of men who left said so, according to a 2022 survey by McKinsey & Co.
Some companies, such as Marriott, are creating bigger daycares and preschools. Marriott’s center stays open an hour later than most other local child-care centers, and the company encourages workers to visit throughout the day and take their children to eat at the corporate cafe, Ms. Fennimore says.
A play area at the child-care center at Marriott’s new global headquarters in Bethesda, Md.PHOTO: GARRETT ROWLAND/GENSLER
Tyson Foods Inc., which is adding child care at its Springdale, Ark., headquarters and at a poultry processing plant in Humboldt, Tenn., says it expects those options to be available for workers later this year. The company already provides off-site child care for beef plant workers in Amarillo, Texas, who work the evening shift.
Overall, company-provided child care is rare: Fewer than 6% of employers offer it at or near their workplaces, according to a 2022 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Many businesses don’t know where to start, says Sadie Funk, director of the Best Place for Working Parents.
“It can feel pretty intimidating and almost like you’re out there swimming alone,” she says.