Parents are willing to pay more for childcare and prefer to have government rebates paid directly into their accounts, according to a survey by the Labor MP and economist Andrew Leigh.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard is considering a shake-up of the system which would include paying childcare centres the rebate directly in exchange for moderated fee rises.
Dr Leigh surveyed 250 of his constituents this month and found a ''surprisingly large number'' of parents in his higher-income Canberra electorate would pay more for high-quality care. Overall, 55 per cent of parents said they would pay more. But only one-third of people chose to have the childcare rebate paid directly to the centre, an option that lowers people's out-of-pocket expenses.
The government is reconsidering its childcare policy after research showed that fees had increased by an average of 11 per cent last year.
But Dr Leigh's research demonstrates that paying the centres directly would be politically difficult for the government, which would have to make the case to people who preferred to have the money in their own accounts.
In an attempt to find further savings in the budget the question of means-testing the childcare rebate, which pays parents up to $7500 a year towards their childcare costs, will again be raised.
It has been considered previously but was knocked back by senior ministers, including Ms Gillard, who believe it acts as an important incentive for women returning to the workforce.
Dr Leigh said means-testing the rebate would, in effect, be a ''gender tax'', because it would disproportionately affect women.