IMPACT will push for greater state investment in early education, with a view to professionalising early education while reducing the costs to parents. The union says that investment is crucial to improving the pay and conditions of professionals working in the sector, where the average wage is €10.27 per hour.
Ciairín de Buis, who is currently director of IMPACT’s early education campaign, was speaking at the launch of IMPACT’s Early Education branch and EarlyImpact campaign at the union’s head office in Dublin today (Saturday 25th March). She said that the Government spends remarkably little when it comes to early education. “We need to be spending multiples of what we currently invest. Across both the EU and OECD countries the average expenditure on early childhood institutions in 2013 was 0.8% of GDP. In the same year Ireland spent just 0.1% of GDP.
“This chronic lack of investment means everyone loses out. “Parents in Ireland pay some of the highest childcare costs in the world, for services staffed by some of the lowest paid and children have no guarantee of quality. That needs to change.
“The current workforce is poorly qualified, poorly paid, with poor working conditions. Those working caring for and teaching our youngest children do an incredibly important job, the Government need to recognise that.” she said.
Ciairín said average wages in the sector range between just over €9 per hour to around €20 per hour. Last year an Early Childhood Ireland survey showed an average wage of €10.27 per hour, with a €1 premium for graduates.
The union’s EarlyImpact campaign will push for an increased investment in early education. Ciairín added, “Investment must focus on professionalisation, higher qualifications, agreed salary scales and better working conditions. The goal to reach is the OECD investment average of 0.8% of GDP within five years, and to the UNICEF quality benchmark of 1% of GDP in 10 years,” she said.
Ciairín added that opportunities exist that will help the union’s campaign to realise its objectives, “The European Commission has advised the Government to improve the quality and affordability of childcare, while an EU commissioned report has recommended a graduate-led workforce with appropriate pay and conditions.
“In addition, the current Programme for Government contains some significant commitments that, if fully implemented, could significantly help to advance the professionalisation that is crucial to the early education sector,” she said.
The current Programme for Government includes a commitment to an independent review of the cost of providing quality childcare in private and community settings, which the programme states is consistent with the principle of ongoing professionalisation of the sector.
The Government has also committed to monitor the implementation of new quality regulations and standards, to work towards further paediatric first aid training for staff, and to review and reform the inspection regime, with a commitment to the withdrawal of funding from providers that do not meet quality standards.
Ciairín said a significant part of IMPACT’s campaign will be to hold the Government to those commitments, and to continue to lobby for improved funding as an instrument to professionalise the sector and improve the quality of the service delivered to Ireland’s pre-school children.
At a glance – the early Education sector
- More than 170,000 children are cared for by approximately 25,000 staff
- Half of those working in early years services work part-time
- 37% of staff have a seasonal contract
- 1 in 8 staff are participants in various employment schemes (primarily CE)
- Almost all are women – only 2% of staff working directly with children are men
- 18% of the early education workforce are qualified to degree level or higher. 11% have no qualification
- It’s a young sector, with 70% under 45 years of age
- EU Commission CoRe report recommends 60% graduate workforce
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