Are Daycare Deserts Stifling Community Growth?

November 22, 2022

Running a business in Iowa has an untold number of advantages, not the least of which is our employment level. As of last month, Iowa was ranked in the top 15 U.S. states with the lowest rate of unemployment at just 2.7%.

The news is not all great, however. Because so many folks in our state are working (Iowa is No. 1 for two-parent working households), we’re facing a serious childcare shortage.

In fact, Iowa has lost 28% of its childcare businesses over the past five years and 56% in the past 10 years.

No surprise to anyone, the crisis disproportionately impacts women who are less likely than men to be employed when the family can’t find or afford a sitter.  

Turning lemon into lemonades, some industrious parents and people-centered businesses are getting creative and finding new ways to balance work and life. Here are just a few:

Rise of the consultant: Self-employed consultants set their own hours, enabling them to flex work hours around childcare needs. Businesses struggling to fill open positions outsource to these individuals, often saving budget formerly devoted to full-time pay and benefits.

On-site childcare: The prices of childcare have risen as high as 41 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, making it cost-prohibitive for many  parents. Businesses that open their own centers benefit from economies of scale and a guaranteed customer base—a win, win for working parents and their companies.

Better benefits: For businesses unable to sustain their own childcare operations, better childcare benefits can help with the financial piece of the equation. They can also be a powerful recruiting tool in a competitive employee marketplace—a notion we’ve seen firsthand at Bank Iowa as we’ve recently enhanced our maternity and paternity leave policies.

Employee-driven hours: Rather than dictate a company-wide remote or hybrid policy that applies to all, some employers are opting to leave that decision up to the individual. Because the employee decides when and where to work, both the individual and the organization experience increased productivity.

While Iowa’s legislators continue to propose new ideas for rules, regulations and programs to alleviate the childcare crisis, businesses and individuals can take proactive action now. Keeping our workforce healthy, productive and financially secure isn’t only the smart thing to do economically; it also sets up generations of Iowans to come with a great example of innovation and endurance.

Here’s how Bank Iowa is helping New Hampton, IA solve their day care desert problem.

If Bank Iowa can help your business brainstorm financially viable options to improve the lives of the working parents on your team, give us a shout.