Childcare is an essential public service that should be properly funded by the State, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has said. The federation’s head of social policy, Laura Bambrick, said the absence of a statutory entitlement to childcare is driving up the cost of services predominantly provided by the private sector.
She was speaking after the publication of the Early Years Staffing Survey Report 2021, which found that a third of childcare facilities are at risk of closure in the coming weeks due to the inability to recruit qualified workers. Staff turnover in the sector is running at over 40%.
The report’s authors predicted increased shortages of childcare places, longer waiting lists and poorer quality services unless the Government quickly implements change.
This point was underlined by Dr Bambrick, who said the market approach to childcare provision had failed.
“The State must recognise childcare as an essential public service, which they are responsible for delivering and resourcing. It's the European way. It's the only accessible and affordable way to guarantee accessible and affordable childcare for families and decent pay and conditions for workers,” she said.
Bambrick said low-cost publicly-provided childcare was available for all children, irrespective of how much their parents earn, in eight of 27 EU countries. “More typically, childcare subsidises are more generous for low-income and lone-parent families," she said.
The cost of childcare for parents in Ireland remains the highest of any EU country. An average working couple in Ireland needs to spend 20% of their joint income to keep two pre-school children in ‘full-time’ childcare. That’s a bigger share of the family budget than is typically spent on housing.
The cost of childcare also effectively bars many women from the workforce, and Ireland has one of the lowest rates of working mothers in Europe.
The report also indicated that over 70% of childcare managers found it extremely difficult to recruit qualified workers, with 97% of them saying this had a negative impact on their work.
It’s never been more important – or easier – to get the protections and benefits of union membership. Join Fórsa HERE or contact us HERE.