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Image of a parent and child looking at a laptop - Caring, Early Childhood Education and Care: New Studies

Caring, Early Childhood Education and Care: New Studies

August 9, 2019

The Eurydice 2019 Report on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe was published in July. This report looks at the provision of and costs associated with ECEC in European countries. The report contains a number of notable findings –
 
  • Ireland has 398,000 children aged under 5, comprising 8% of the population. The is the second highest proportion of under-5s in Europe (after Turkey);
  • Across Europe, average monthly childcare fees are highest in Switzerland (€2,150 per month), the UK (€1,190 p/m), Ireland (€771 p/m), and the Netherlands (€572 p/m). The report highlights the reliance of these countries on ‘market-driven mechanisms’ in the provision of care to children under 3;
  • Of all countries studied for the report, Ireland is the only one with a large, unregulated childminding sector. It notes that this indicates ‘a potentially large under-supply of regulated home-based provision’;
  • Ireland is one of nine European countries with a ‘childcare gap’* of 5-6 years. However, when the availability of ECCE is factored in, the gap is de facto reduced to 2.7 years.

* The childcare gap is the ‘difference between the maximum length of adequately compensated post-natal childcare leave and the earliest start of a universal place guarantee in ECEC (legal entitlement or compulsory ECEC). When there is no guaranteed place in ECEC, the gap is calculated until the start of compulsory primary education.

The full report is available here.

These findings are further evidence of the need for strong investment in the early years sector. Increased investment levels are a fundamental step towards sustainability for providers, supports for staff, and affordability for parents. Most importantly, this is central to ensuring universal, accessible, and quality early years experiences for children.

The report’s analysis of the childminding sector in Ireland underlines the importance of this care option for many families, and the need to work towards a model of support for both childminders and the families availing of their services.

Separately, ‘Caring and Unpaid Work in Ireland’, a joint report by the ESRI and IHREC, was published in July. This report finds that one-third of Irish adults are engaged in the daily care of children. However, caring is sharply divided by gender.

  • 70% of women aged 35 to 49 provide daily care for children, compared to 48% of men in the same age bracket;
  • Women, on average, spend 42.6 hours per week on childcare compared to 25.2 hours for men;
  • 40pc of women are involved in childcare compared to 26pc of men – a difference the report describes as ‘significant’;
  • Having a preschool child adds 39.2 hours care time for women compared to 27.7 hours for men.
Table showing a breakdown of the daily childcare hours performed by men and women in Ireland

Source: ‘Caring and Unpaid Work in Ireland’ (ESRI; IHREC, 2019)

The report notes that ‘the association between hours of unpaid labour and children is considerably stronger for women’. Citing research from the Nordic countries, it suggests that access to paid, non-transferable parental leave for fathers is crucial for increasing uptake among men. In turn, this is instrumental in leading to a less gendered division of care roles.

The full report can be accessed here.

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