Gender pay gap exposed by Oireachtas report on early years sector

earlyyears3IMPACT trade union has said the report published on Thursday (27th July) by the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs on Working Conditions of the Early Years Education and Care Sector has exposed a significant gender pay gap.

Responding to the publication of the report, IMPACT organiser Lisa Connell said “Early Education is a profession where 98% of employees are women, in a sector characterised by low rates of pay and substandard working conditions.

“The chronic lack state investment continues to exacerbate the existing problem of low pay for workers in this sector, the vast majority of whom are highly qualified professionals. This lack of investment also sharply increases the cost of childcare. This is a key factor in the gender pay gap across all sectors of the economy,” she said.

Ms Connell said the current level of investment, based on existing capitation rates, force pay levels that do not value the importance of early education and care.

The report shows that the average rate of pay for early educators is €10.27 per hour. Ms Connell said, “Those who are working in the sector cannot financially afford to remain within it, especially with increasing standards of living, soaring rents and general living costs.

“As a direct result of lack of investment many services operate at a ‘break-even’ point, while trying to cut costs through staff wages and administrative sources. Many of the women working in the sector are forced to sign on the dole during the summer period. This is an unsustainable model,” she said.

The report highlights the need for a full cost analysis by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs – with significant input from the Department of Finance – in order to inform both policy development and future funding proposals. Ms Connell said this approach has the potential to improve the success of new schemes. “It would create more favourable and sustainable working conditions for all those employed in the sector and improve the quality of services for children.”

IMPACT Deputy General Secretary, Kevin Callinan, said “The priority for this sector lies in investment and increased funding. Those who are providers in the sector will rely on increased investment to fund the introduction of professional pay and payscales. We’re continuing our campaign to ensure that more investment is at the core of department policy.

“It’s a very welcome step to see movement on important issues within the Early Years sector. We believe the introduction of appropriate payscales and recognition of qualifications will be vital in addressing the professionalisation of the sector.

“We also believe that consultation with the sector will be crucial to ensuring that any and all changes are made with the expert knowledge of Early Years professionals,” he said.

IMPACT’s campaign (EarlyImpact), on behalf of its members working in the early education and care sector, is seeking the professionalisation of early education, in addition to greater state investment into the sector.

The union has said more investment is crucial to facilitate professionalised pay scales that reflect the value of early education, and the professional qualifications of the people who deliver the service.

If you would like to get involved with EarlyImpact  and help us with our campaign to ensure professionalisation and increased Sector funding, please contact organisers Lisa Connell or Grace Williams.