8 March 2022
Irish public overwhelmingly supports women-led early years and school age care sector
Staff who work with children must have their work valued through proper terms and conditions
Early Childhood Ireland, the leading organisation in the early years sector, has today (8.3.22) called on government to fully recognise and value this vital workforce, 98% of whom are women. Results of the organisation’s fifth annual Barometer found that just under three-quarters of people in Ireland (73%) support better terms and conditions for qualified staff who work directly with children. This year’s Barometer, which is based on national polling by RED C, also found that 71% of people believe that the education of children under 5 is as important as the education of children over 5, an increase of 9% from the 2021 result (62%).
“People in Ireland have consistently shown how deeply they value and support the early years and school age care workforce. Our most recent Barometer shows that almost 3 in 4 people think that professional early years educators should have terms and conditions of employment that reflect both their skills and the enormous contribution they make to children’s lives. On International Women’s Day, we want to highlight this invaluable female-led workforce and call on government to ensure that their contribution is recognised and rewarded appropriately. The public understands that having properly qualified and appropriately compensated staff is a critical marker of a high-quality care and education system. Older people know this more than anyone, with 81% of those aged over 65 years agreeing that professional early years educators should be paid in line with their expertise,” said Frances Byrne, Director of Policy at Early Childhood Ireland.
Ireland’s 4,000 early years and school-age settings employ more than 30,000 people. According to the most recent statistics, the average hourly wage of staff working with children is €12.45. In 2019/20, half earned below the ‘Living Wage’ rate (€12.30 per hour in 2020). In addition to low wages, most staff don’t have access to even the most essential terms and conditions. Almost 80 per cent do not have sick pay, 90 per cent do not have a private pension and approximately 65 per cent do not have paid maternity leave. These factors lead to qualified staff leaving the sector. The average staff turnover rate is 18%, rising from 11% in Roscommon to 38% in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.
“Early Childhood Ireland has conducted our Barometer for the last five years. In that time, public support for early years and school age care services has increased. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is striking to note that 98% of the workforce are women with many earning less than the Living Wage, despite how highly people in Ireland value their contribution. Politicians must follow the public’s lead and provide this important workforce with the terms and conditions they deserve,” said Frances Byrne.