Aussie grandparents are helping to ease the strain on family budgets by providing hours of ‘Greycare’ - unpaid childcare - every month, adding up to a combined saving of $328 million for parents, new Mozo research has found.
“This is a huge contribution from Australian seniors, who are ensuring that parents of young children not only have the time they need to work, run errands and take a break without worrying for their kids, but can also save hundreds of dollars a month in day care costs,” said Mozo Director Kirsty Lamont.
We asked Aussie seniors around Australia how much time they put into caring for their grandkids, why they did it and how much it cost them, to work out what Greycare means for the average Aussie family.
Mozo’s research shows that more than one in five Aussie grandchildren check into Greycare, with grandparents clocking up an average 58 hours of childcare in a month.
Each month, as many as 61% of grandparents look after grandchildren for 8 hours or more and 35% put in one day a week or more, effectively taking on a part-time nanny role to help parents juggle childcare with busy schedules.
What’s more, 40% of those grandparents helping out are still employed alongside their side gig as a free babysitter.
But Greycare is clearly a labour of love, with 66% of grandparents happy to provide child care, and as many as 7 in 10 saying they do it to spend more time with their grandchildren.
Another 41% of Aussie seniors cited giving parents some financial relief as the reason for looking after grandkids, while giving parents a break, either for leisure (49%) or to get errands done (44%), were also major reasons behind the choice.
“It’s clear that one of the big motivations behind having grandparents provide childcare is to save some money while also giving parents a chance to take a break, have a night off and recuperate, but grandparents also get something out of the deal - a chance to spend time with family members they love,” said Lamont.
According to ABS statistics, childcare in Australia comes with an average $8.91 per hour price tag and can be much more expensive in some cities, which can add up for busy working families.
“When you consider that in some metropolitan areas, a full day in a child care centre can cost as much as $180, and Saturday night babysitting can run to around $15 an hour, childcare can be a real strain on the family budget,” said Lamont.
“Add to that stagnant wage growth and increased cost of living and it’s no wonder Aussies are keeping it in the family when it comes to childcare.”
But when it comes to Greycare, 98% of grandparents choose to look after their grandkids for free, and this can save Aussie families a whopping $517 per month on average.
This is good news for working parents, but some grandparents are shelling out $50-$100 a month on things like transport, food or activities while looking after their grandkids.
“Collectively, Aussie grandparents contribute the equivalent of $328 million of childcare each month - that’s a huge weight off parents’ shoulders. But it can also be a big ask for seniors, with 5% feeling either obliged to help out, or exhausted by doing so,” said Lamont.
She encouraged Aussie parents to keep in mind the effort being put in by grandparents, and to take a moment to say thank you for the help.
“Our research shows that grandparents aren’t being paid for childcare, but parents can absolutely find other ways to show their gratitude. Even something as simple as acknowledging how much it helps goes a long way,” she said.
Help grandparents plan free activities. In Mozo’s survey, 8% of grandparents reported spending over $100 a month while looking after their grandchildren. To help them limit these costs, parents can suggest free, fun activities to keep the kids occupied while spending time with Nan and Grandpa - like cooking lessons in the kitchen, backyard cricket, arts and crafts or reading time at the local library.
Make the most of Greycare hours. Whether you’ve got 5 hours or 5 days free a month thanks to Greycare, make sure you get the most value out of that time. That might mean picking up an extra shift at work or starting a side hustle if you’re looking to make some extra cash, or using the time to truly unwind with a date night or spa day.
Put the savings to good use. There are plenty of great uses for the extra $517 in your pocket thanks to not shelling out for daycare or babysitters. You might put it towards groceries, or a well-deserved treat for yourself, but if you don’t need it for everyday costs, our suggestion is to either stick it in a high interest savings account to grow, or put those extra funds towards paying down debt like a lingering credit card bill or mortgage.