A new report has revealed that families are spending more on average for part-time childcare than they spend on their mortgage each year.
Findings by the Family and Childcare Trust show parents are paying out £7,500 a year to cover the childcare costs of two children – about 4.7 per cent more than the cost of their average mortgage bill.
Some families could also be spending more on childcare than they do on their weekly shopping, it claims.
The study produced by the Trust gathered figures from local authority family or children's information services in England, Wales and Scotland.
Each authority was asked to give the cost of 25 hours and 50 hours of childcare as provided by nurseries and childminders.
They were also asked to provide figures on the average cost of 15 hours childcare in an after-school club, or for a childminder to collect children from school.
It found that a family with one two-year-old child attending nursery 25 hours a week and a five-year-old in an after-school club will spend £7,549 a year on average. The annual mortgage cost in the UK is £7,207, according to official data.
The Trust's report warns that 25 hours in a nursery for a child aged under two costs an average of £109.89 a week - which it calculates is twice the average price of a weekly food bill (£56.80 a week).
During the last 12 months, nursery costs for under twos have risen across every areas of Britain with an average increase of 3.3 per cent.
Childcare costs have risen more than inflation each year since 2002, the study reports, with international data showing that parents in Britain pay out more than a quarter of their salary (26.6 per cent), higher than most other European nations.
The report concludes: "Our research shows that the current childcare system is not working for anyone.
"Children are losing out on vital early education and families remain trapped in poverty because they cannot make work pay.
"Childcare providers struggle with debts. Women fail to return to the labour market after they have children and the economy loses their skills and their taxes.
"The state faces greater welfare bills and high administrative costs for delivering a complex support system."
Anand Shukla, chief executive at Family and Childcare Trust called for all political parties to commit to a long-term childcare strategy that benefits parents, providers and children.
"When even part-time childcare costs outstrip the average mortgage for a family home - and many parents have to spend more than a quarter of their income on childcare - it's clear that our childcare system isn't fit for purpose," he said.