Throughout the pandemic, North Carolina child care providers have served as “the workforce behind the workforce,” providing care to the children of frontline workers. A new survey of child care centers across the state finds that more than 80 percent say it is more difficult to recruit and retain staff now than before the pandemic. As a result, one-third (32%) of care providers report temporarily closing classrooms due to the labor shortage.
This staffing crisis is largely the result of a market failure stemming from the chronic underfinancing of our child care system. While many centers have boosted staff salaries and benefits in hopes of attracting and retaining staff, the wages they’re able to offer are similar to those offered by grocery stores and big-box store retailers – jobs that require far less training and educational qualifications.
By prioritizing the compensation of child care staff, North Carolina and the federal government can address the current labor shortage and provide the support necessary to allow our children – and economy – to thrive.