Mothers will quit their jobs or reduce their working hours if childcare subsidies are cut, a survey shows.
Nearly half of the 650 parents and carers in the Mission Australia survey say they would cut their work hours.
About one in five would stop working altogether.
Mothers and children in the most disadvantaged areas would be worst hit, the study found.
A third of disadvantaged mums indicated they would quit the workforce entirely and cut back on paid childcare, which would mean their children would miss out on early learning programs.
The findings are featured in Mission Australia's submission to a Productivity Commission inquiry into childcare.
It shows that even with current subsidies, parents and carers find childcare unaffordable.
Mission Australia early learning services general manager Marie Howard said that investing in childcare and raising quality standards would reap returns for the economy in the long-term.
"The early years are crucial to every Australian child's development," she said in a statement released yesterday.
"Investment in providing the best possible education and care for our youngest citizens will set this generation up for a brighter future, which will also be better for the Australian economy overall."
Childcare union United Voice said the government's "attack" on national quality standards was undermining parental confidence in the sector.
It said government action was needed to address a projected shortage of childcare staff, high costs and accessibility problems it envisions in the next five years.
"The government ignores this at their peril because the collapse of our sector will have dire consequences for families, children, society and the economy," union member and educator Amy Bell said in a statement. - AAP