The prime minister has been forced to defend the lack of focus on child care in the federal budget.

Child care barely rates a mention in the latest economic blueprint.

Targeted funding for about 3000 providers in Victoria is being extended until January and parents across the rest of the country will be given easier activity test requirements until April.

But there were no major funding commitments or new initiatives for the early education sector, which was among the hardest hit by the coronavirus-induced recession.

One idea floated by various economists and interest groups was to offer free child care as a way to help more women re-enter the workforce.

But Scott Morrison said that would only serve to give massive subsidies to those on higher incomes.

“I don’t see how that would be a fair thing to do to those on low to middle income earners who need that support,” he told the ABC on Wednesday.

Mr Morrison said the government already funded 85 per cent of childcare fees for low and middle income earners and spent $9 billion on the sector each year.

His government also spent an extra $900 million helping childcare centres through coronavirus shutdowns.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is expected to outline new childcare policies during his budget-in-reply speech on Thursday night.

Mr Albanese dismissed reports Labor will offer free childcare for low income families but talked up the importance of the sector for the broader economy.

“Good policy on childcare that encourages women’s participation in the workforce is obviously good for participation but it’s also good for productivity,” he told reporters.

Labor went to the last election promising free child care for workers earning less than $69,000 a year.

The policy also included wage subsidies for childcare workers.