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Early Childhood Ireland welcomes news of record number of women in the workforce

April 24, 2019

For immediate release

24 April 2019


Early Childhood Ireland welcomes news of record number of women in the workforce

The organisation says this highlights the importance of providing for well-paid family leave


Early Childhood Ireland has welcomed news showing that a record number of women were in the workforce in 2018.

New figures from Eurostat show that 804,700 women aged between 25 and 54 were employed in 2018, representing around 77% of the female population in that age category. This represents an increase of 78,000 in the number of women in the workforce on figures from 2014.

Early Childhood Ireland, which represents early years settings, welcomes this as hugely significant for female participation in the labour force. However, the organisation highlights the importance of providing for well-paid family leave to facilitate more women to enter and remain in the workforce.

It also highlights the need for increased government investment to address an ongoing staff recruitment and retention crisis in the early years sector, in which 98% of staff working directly with children are women.

Early Childhood Ireland also welcomes measures, published by government yesterday, to provide for two weeks of paid parental leave and benefit. This is a progressive step that enjoys strong public support – the second annual Early Childhood Ireland Childcare Barometer, published in February 2019, shows that 70% of Irish adults feel parents should be financially supported to stay at home with their child for the first 12 months of a child’s life. Almost six in ten Irish adults also think that parental leave benefit should be paid at the European Commission’s recommended rate of 66% of normal earnings.

However, significantly more investment is needed to safeguard sustainability and to support staff in the female-led early years sector.

Frances Byrne, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Early Childhood Ireland, commented, ‘The figures released today by Eurostat showing record female participation in the labour market in Ireland are very welcome. It underlines the integral role of women in the workforce and highlights the need for continued investment to support women to continue to work.’

Ms. Byrne continued, ‘The introduction of measures by government to provide two weeks’ paid parental leave and benefit is a doubly important step in this regard. We know from expert evidence that children benefit enormously from being cared for by a parent during the first year of their lives. The new parental leave measures will facilitate both parents to take this vital time with their children, allowing greater choice and flexibility.’

Ms. Byrne concluded, ‘Access to quality childcare is a vital part of ensuring women’s continued participation in the workforce. At the moment, Ireland invests the lowest amount of any EU country in early years. Greater investment is key to addressing affordability for parents. It is also an essential component of ensuring sustainability for providers and childcare workers, the vast majority of whom are women.’

‘Today’s figures highlight the huge contribution of women to Ireland’s GDP. We urge government to reflect this contribution by enhancing investment in early years. This will not only support women’s participation in the labour market by addressing issues of affordability, but also ensure crucial supports for providers in the female-led sector. Most importantly, it will contribute to universal quality provision and the best possible outcomes for babies and young children.’



For media enquiries, please contact Grace Duffy on 086 144 8768.


Editor’s Note

Early Childhood Ireland is the largest organisation in the early years sector. It represents 3,800 childcare members, who support over 100,000 children and their families through preschool, afterschool, and full day-care provision nationwide.

Ireland invests approximately 0.2% GDP in the early years sector[1]. This is significantly below the OECD average of 0.8% GDP, and the UNICEF international benchmark of 1% GDP. Leading countries in this area (such as the Nordic countries) invest between 1.2% and 1.9% GDP in the sector[2].

The Early Childhood Ireland Childcare Barometer gauges the views of Irish adults on childcare. It is conducted by RedC Research on behalf of Early Childhood Ireland. The Childcare Barometer 2019 is based on the results of a telephone survey of 1,000 adults aged 18+, conducted in January 2019. The full Barometer can be accessed here.

A number of researchers have emphasised the importance of ‘sensitive and responsive parent-child relationships’[3] during the critical first year of a child’s life. These relationships are associated with stronger cognitive skills and enhanced social skills later in life.[4]


[1] Please see page 193, note 245 in ‘First 5: A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children, and Their Families 2019-2028’.

[2] ‘Education at a Glance’, OECD Indicators, 2015.

[3] Marmot Review (2010:98)

[4] Please see pg. 12 of Early Learning and Childcare (Prevention & Early Intervention Series, Focused Policy Assessment No. 5, Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service, November 2018).

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