The average cost of childcare has leapt by 19% in the past year, holding back parents from going to work, according to a study.
Research by childcare search site Findababysitter.com showed that one in four unemployed parents wanted to work but could not because of high childcare costs, increasing to two out of five of 18 to 24-year-olds.
The average hourly rate for hiring help such as a nanny, housekeeper or babysitter jumped from £8.10 an hour to £9.80 over the past year, it suggested.
After-school nannies were charging £10 an hour, while housekeepers cost an average of £11.25 an hour, said the report.
A survey of over 1,000 parents for the study found that around half believed the Government was not doing enough to support them with childcare costs.
Birmingham, Bristol, Oxford, London and Leeds were the top five cities in the UK where unemployed parents were unable to afford childcare costs.
Most parents said cost was a bigger barrier to childcare than safety considerations.
Tom Harrow, chief executive of Findababysitter.com, said he had met MPs to discuss government policies, but accused politicians of a "lack of understanding" over childcare.
"They still think the local nursery is the only option," he said.
Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Daycare Trust, said: "Finding affordable, flexible and high quality childcare is still - and will remain - one of the biggest challenges faced by families."
Lucy Powell, shadow minister for childcare and children, said: "Families facing a cost-of-living crisis are being failed by David Cameron, who is offering no help with the rising cost of childcare for hard-pressed mums and dads.
"Soaring childcare costs are a drag on our economy and lock parents who want to get back to work out of the jobs market.
"Labour would introduce a primary childcare guarantee to help parents manage before-and-after school care and extend free childcare provision for three and four-year-olds with working parents from 15 to 25 hours."
Sharon Greene, Unison's women's officer, said: "It is a sad fact that in 2014 women still face too many barriers in the workplace. The high cost of childcare is pricing many women out of their jobs, forcing them to give up work which puts family finances under massive pressure.
"If employers are serious about keeping qualified, well-trained and experienced women in the workplace, they must look seriously at innovative ways to support working parents.
"If the country is to recover from the economic downturn the Government needs to listen to working parents and take account of the needs of the modern workplace. That means providing funding for more affordable, flexible and quality childcare."
A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Recent figures show childcare costs are stabilising after more than a decade of constantly rising prices. A survey for the National Day Nurseries Association found that 58% of nurseries are freezing their fees.
"We are taking decisive action to help families with the cost of childcare. We have increased free early education for all three- and four-year-olds from 12.5 to 15 hours a week and extended support to two-year-olds from low-income families. We are also introducing tax-free childcare which will see all eligible families receive up to £1,200 towards each child's childcare costs.
"At the same time, we are meeting up to 70% of childcare costs for low- and middle-income families through tax credits."