The real reason companies like Target are offering paid parental leave and child-care

“The more employers that want to offer child-care options, the better,” agreed Melissa Boteach, vice president of income security and child care/early learning at the National Women’s Law Center. “But in the meantime, it’s really important that that not lead us to believe that corporations alone are going to solve this problem.”

That problem includes more than just the high cost: There are huge child-care supply shortages in many areas of the country, Tercha said, and many U.S. child-care workers make poverty wages. The provider workforce is disproportionately women of color, Boteach added, which “exacerbates racial disparities in ways that are bad for our democracy and bad for our economy.”

“You need to be improving quality, improving access and strengthening the [provider] workforce in order for the system to be reaching its full potential for parents and kids,” Boteach said.

And on the legislative front, for example, there’s the FAMILY Act, which would give 12 weeks of paid leave to new parents and caregivers. The Child Care for Working Families Act would expand investments in child care and ensure that low-income families aren’t putting more than 7% of their annual income toward it.

“We need to look at the system as a whole and comprehensively, and make large-scale investments in order to truly tackle the problem,” Boteach said. “That’s not to say that in the meantime, Target and Walmart and other large-scale employers can’t move the needle in the right direction.”