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19 November 2022

As the cost-of-living pressures continue to bite, a new poll released by UNICEF Australia to coincide with World Children’s Day today shows that more than 1 in 2 families are having to make sacrifices in their household budget to pay for their children’s sports or physical activities, or face having to stop those activities altogether.

The survey also found that parents believe all costs associated with sport or physical activities have gone up over time - most notably session and travel costs, making it the biggest barrier to participating in extra-curricular sports/physical activities.

At least 2 in 5 households said they have taken their children out of sports or physical activities - or are having to consider it now.

“UNICEF Australia believes we should all work together to make sure extra-curricular sport and physical activities are accessible to all children, wherever they live and whatever their background. Accessibility to sport for children links directly back to children’s rights in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: the right to healthy development and the right to relax, play and to join in a wide range of leisure activities,” says Libby Hodgson, Deputy Director at UNICEF Australia.

UNICEF Ambassador and Australian Cricket Captain, Pat Cummins, says: “This survey shows that sport and physical activities are seen by Australian parents as an essential element to child's development. Playing sports can bring a raft of benefits - beyond physical fitness – by also helping to build self-confidence and social development.

“As a child growing up, I saw first-hand the impact that sport made and how important it can be for building social bonds that are part of Australian life. Every child should be able to access sports and physical activities they want to play.”

The survey conducted by Fiftyfive5 also revealed:

  • About 1 in 5 parents rank sports/physical activities as the element most essential to their child’s development, along with social/play;
  • Children and teens are engaging in 2-3 sports or physical activities outside of school, with swimming the most common for 3–15-year-olds;
  • Costs and time are significant barriers for parents of children who are doing significantly less extra-curricular sports/physical activities now;
  • Parents believe that there have been increases in all costs associated with extracurricular sports/physical activities, especially travel costs;
  • Households of all financial situations have seen a cost increase, but it is most notable amongst those that are already restricted by budget.

It is all too apparent that some families are finding things tough: “It’s so difficult not being able to sign your kids up to what they want to do because it's too expensive. Not only registration, but specific uniforms or footwear they require… it makes them feel less than, and that other things are more important i.e. petrol, bills, food shopping, mortgage which in the big scheme of things those things are more important… but when you're a kid you don't understand that,” was one parent’s response to the survey.  

The survey of parents from across Australia also showed they believe there are many solutions that could make it easier for children to participate in sports physical activity, identifying that discounts or vouchers could help the most.

“Parents believe discounts and vouchers could help the most in making it easier for children to participate in sports, especially for households that have to make budget sacrifices to pay for sports or physical activities,” says Ms Hodgson, Deputy Director at UNICEF Australia.

“In most states and territories, sports voucher schemes are run by the governments, offering vouchers to eligible parents and carers to help cover the cost of sports registration, membership fees and the like. However, other research has previously shown that there is a proportion of socially disadvantaged groups who are unaware - or have not engaged - with these types of programs.

“This World Children’s Day, UNICEF Australia encourages all parents to investigate their eligibility for any sports voucher scheme available where they live, and – if they are eligible – make use of those programs to help with the cost of their child’s participation in sport.”

About the survey

UNICEF Australia commissioned FiftyFive5 to provide research on children’s participation in sports and costs involved. 1,006 parents of children aged 3-17 completed a 15-minute online quantitative survey. A further 1,000 parents of children aged 3-17 completed a 5-minute version of the online quantitative survey. To ensure a final sample that is robust and representative of parents with children aged 3-17 years, we set quotas for age x gender and location (state and metro/regional). The total sample was weighted using the same targets once we had completed fieldwork, to ensure the total final sample was representative of parents of children aged 3-17 years in Australia.

About UNICEF Australia

UNICEF operates in more than 190 countries in some of the world’s toughest places to reach the most disadvantaged children. UNICEF Australia works with local partners to raise children’s voices, defend their rights, and help them reach their potential at all stages of life, here and in neighbouring countries. We rely entirely on voluntary donations to provide lifesaving support; improve maternal and child health, education, and nutrition; and to respond to global emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For more information about UNICEF Australia and its work for children, visit