Almost a third of working parents with preschool children spend more than a third of their wages on childcare costs, the TUC has found.
A poll by the union body also revealed that almost one in five (18%) spend between a third and half of their salary on childcare. One in seven say they pay more than half their salary each month.
Across parents of children of all age groups, 19% pay more than a third.
The TUC has called for an “immediate increase” to the minimum wage of £10 an hour and a longer-term plan to boost the childcare sector and make it more affordable.
Parents who are disabled or from ethnic minorities were particularly likely to dedicate more of their income to childcare costs.
One in three (32%) of parents from black and ethnic minorities spend more than a third of their salary on childcare, while 12% have childcare costs more than half their wages (compared to 16% and 6% of white workers).
Meanwhile, more than a third (35%) of disabled parents spend over a third of their pay on childcare costs. Around one in seven (15%) spend over half their salary on childcare (compared to 16% and 6% of non-disabled workers).
The TUC argues that giving childcare workers better wages and providing longer-term funding to make sure childcare is more affordable would help working parents and help the sector recover from the pandemic.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Parents are spending a massive chunk of their pay packets on childcare bills, while their wages stagnate.
“This is putting huge pressure on family budgets. We desperately need a plan to get wages rising across the economy, or too many families will have to choose between turning their heating on or putting food on the table.
“Every worker in Britain should be paid a wage they can live on – that goes up with the cost of living. And the government must commit to a boost in childcare funding to ensure decent affordable childcare for everyone.”
Shabby Ismail, who works in retail, has a three-year-old and is about to have another baby.
She was forced to place her 11-month-old son in nursery so she and her husband could cover their bills, but the cost of childcare meant she had to drop her hours from 39 per week to 20.
“My son went to nursery for two and a half days a week and it cost £611 a month. I was only getting paid £800 a month,” she told the TUC. “My son turned three in October, and we got the 30 hours of free childcare. But because we’re having another baby he does more hours now, so it still costs us over £600 a month.”
Ismail added that two children in nursery would mean costs of around £1,200 a month, which her salary doesn’t even cover.
“I can’t just sit at home because I’ve always worked and I enjoy working. It’s just going to be difficult financially. Our childcare costs mean we have to cut back on other things. I don’t really buy clothes for myself, I just buy clothes for the little one.
“I wish it was easier for working mums to juggle their careers with raising children.”
Figures from the Office for National Statistics earlier this week showed that UK wage growth continues to fall behind the cost of living, amid calls for the chancellor to scrap tax and National Insurance rises in next week’s Spring budget statement.
A number of employers have already introduced cost of living wage rises, most recently electronics retailer Currys.