I once asked a few single mothers I worked with, if they would rather have $x/week or free daycare. I varied x from $10 to $100. Some said that the would not use the daycare even if it was freely available without receiving any money at all. The average preferred about $20 cash per week to free daycare. There is no way a government could provide daycare for $20/week. I've seen estimated costs as high as $400/week and I don't think I've ever seen numbers below $200/week. On top of that 56% of women with children under 18 say they would prefer to stay home and care for their children.
So why do some countries provide it rather than giving cash? Below are some possible reasons, some of which people might not want to admit:
- They believe low income people are such bad parents that government provided daycare will help the children become better adults.
- They are afraid that if given cash the parents would spend the money on themselves.
- They don't want to give cash because they do not want to be seen to be paying people to have children.
- People don't understand that government paid for things have costs.