Here’s the truth: we cannot fully build back and enhance our regional economy without expanding high-quality child care for all who need it.
In the ever-evolving landscape of our Bay Area economy, child care has emerged as a critical factor in shaping the workforce and overall strength of our economy. As CEOs of business associations representing the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley and San Jose, we believe that universal high-quality child care is an indispensable foundation for a robust and thriving economy—and vital to fostering a more equitable and inclusive future for our region.
Unaffordable child care costs working families more than $8.3 billion in lost wages annually. The importance of child care cannot be overstated, as it intersects with several vital facets of our economic landscape, including productivity, employee retention, workforce diversity and the appeal of businesses to a younger workforce. Our associations represent various industries and hundreds of employers, and recognize the substantial benefits a comprehensive child care system can bring to our businesses and the broader economy.
Expanding access to high-quality child care has been shown to boost business productivity and empowers parents of all backgrounds to dedicate themselves to their work, confident that their children are in secure, nurturing environments. This reduces absenteeism and minimizes distractions, fostering a more focused and efficient workforce. Productivity gains translate directly into higher revenues and overall economic growth.
Moreover, universal child care plays a pivotal role in retaining employees. The cost of employee turnover is staggering—not only in terms of recruitment and training, but also in lost institutional knowledge. Offering accessible child care options fosters employee loyalty, demonstrating a company’s commitment to their well-being and work-life balance. Employees who feel supported are more likely to remain with their current employers and grow in their positions, contributing to business stability.
Universal child care is also a powerful magnet for attracting talent. In a competitive job market, companies that provide child care options become employers of choice. They stand out as organizations that prioritize the holistic needs of their employees, appealing to a younger workforce that values family-friendly policies and work-life balance. A new poll shows Gen Z values child care over health insurance in terms of workplace benefits.
By positioning ourselves as forward-thinking and inclusive employers, businesses with comprehensive child care options can tap into a broader pool of skilled workers, enriching the diversity and creativity within their teams.
Furthermore, the lack of affordable child care disproportionately affects low-income families and women, forced to grapple with the difficult choice between career and caregiving, exacerbating income inequality, leading to career interruptions, underemployment or dropping out of the workforce. This exodus of talent costs our economy billions of dollars each year in unrealized potential and lost productivity. By implementing universal high-quality child care, we can mitigate these disparities, providing equal opportunities for all and leveling the playing field in our society.
Collaboration between the public and private sectors is essential to catalyze this transformation in the United States, specifically in the San Francisco Bay Area. We urge local and federal governments to explore innovative financing models, economic incentives and business partnerships to make high-quality child care accessible to all families. Simultaneously, we encourage businesses to recognize the economic advantages of investing in child care support for their employees and explore creative solutions that fit their unique needs.
Universal high-quality child care is both a social imperative and sound economic strategy. Its positive impact on productivity, employee retention, workforce diversity and talent attraction is undeniable. Conversely, the absence of such a system carries significant economic costs. In Santa Clara, 28% of households need financial assistance to meet basic needs.
Achieving universal high-quality child care is a daunting challenge at national and state levels, yet we can initiate positive changes at the local level immediately. Our collaboration with Build the Future, a nonprofit coalition dedicated to expanding and fighting for funding and policies to provide child care for all in Santa Clara County, exemplifies our commitment to addressing this issue. We encourage you to join us.
Jim Wunderman is president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. Ahmad Thomas is CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.