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Review of Working Conditions for Staff in Early Learning and Care

Review of Working Conditions for Staff in Early Learning and Care

December 14, 2020

On November 13, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) published the first suite of research commissioned to support the development of a new funding model. Five papers were produced by Frontier Economics. This week, The Big Picture summarises and comments on Working Paper 3.  Last week’s article on Working Paper 2 can be found here.

The aim of the report is to assess the conditions of the Early Learning and Care (ELC) workforce in Ireland, by comparing it to international standards. Comparisons are drawn with seven countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Norway. These countries were selected to cover a range of contexts, regarding type of provision, models of governance and level of public support. Although the scope for the work originally included School Age Childcare (SAC), the report focuses exclusively on Early Learning and Care due to data availability.

The findings show that the Early Learning and Care workforce in Ireland can be characterised as follows:

  • Minimum qualification requirements for teachers in Early Learning and Care settings are lower in Ireland than in France, Germany, New Zealand and Norway, but higher than in England. In addition, twenty five percent of the Early Learning and Care workforce in Ireland holds a tertiary qualification, higher than the share in England but much lower than the share in Germany, the Netherlands and Norway;
  • Mean hourly pay for Early Learning and Care workers in Ireland, adjusted for cost of living, is lower than in all comparator countries except England. In addition, the mean Early Learning and Care hourly pay corresponds to only 47% of the national mean – only England and Canada have lower ratios;
  • Statutory child-to-staff ratios in Ireland are generally lower than those in the comparator countries, although there are some exceptions;
  • A relatively high share of Early Learning and Care staff in Ireland work part time;
  • There are indications that Early Learning and Care staff in Ireland feel less recognised by society than Early Learning and Care staff in Germany or Norway;
  • Comparisons of Early Learning and Care staff experience, turnover, and recruitment and retention are limited by a lack of comparable evidence. The Early Learning and Care workforce in Ireland is relatively young by international standards, and there is some evidence that turnover in Ireland is substantially higher than in Germany and Norway.

 

The report provides additional evidence on the precarious work conditions that the Early Learning and Care workforce faces. The results are aligned with the ones of the new research report that Early Childhood Ireland has recently published, ‘Pathways to Better Prospects’ which can be accessed here. In 2021, we will continue to advocate for the transformation of this abundant evidence into policy action. The further development of an appropriately skilled and sustainable professional early years and school-age care workforce, that is supported and valued is a matter of utmost importance.

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