Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan has called on government to fix Ireland’s broken childcare system by cutting costs to parents, and establishing a Living Wage for workers in the sector.
He also highlighted the crisis in recruitment and staff retention across the childcare sector, and called for an urgent government response in the upcoming budget.
Addressing Minister for Children and Equality Roderic O’Gorman in the Seanad, Senator Gavan said:
“Irish parents currently face the highest childcare costs anywhere in the European Union. The average weekly cost of childcare for a family is now €186 per child.
“At the same time, we also have amongst the lowest paid childcare workers in Europe. ‘Early Years assistants’, who constitute 55% of all staff working with children, earn just €11.91 per hour on average, 39c below the “living wage” for Ireland in 2020 according to recent POBAL figures.
“The funding model is broken and workers in the sector are voting with their feet. Childcare providers are currently facing a 40% turnover of staff in full day services each year. This level of turnover must have a detrimental impact on standards of care.
“The results from a recent survey carried out by SIPTU show a clear trend of staff looking to exit the sector with some 44% of staff actively searching for new opportunities away from childcare.
“Three out of four respondents directly linked their dissatisfaction to their low pay, along with the lack of basic perks like sick pay and lack of job security.
“A worrying 80% of those surveyed said they do not see themselves working in the sector in 12 months’ time, a frightening figure for a sector that is already really struggling.
“As many parents begin to return to working in offices as opposed to working from home the demands for childcare will only increase.
“Government must invest a minimum of €150m, €75m to ensure a living wage and a further €75m to reduce full-time weekly fee’s by €35 per week.
“Workers in the sector are fed up with empty promises and good intentions from successive governments.
“Hard-pressed parents and the workers who provide this essential service deserve real action to bring the sector into line with the rest of Europe.”