A new survey has found almost three out of ten parents (28%) could not attend work or have missed out on new job opportunities because they could not access childcare.
Of those impacted, women were twice as likely men to be impacted by a lack of childcare.
The survey questioned a representative sample of 1,000 respondents and was undertaken on behalf of Seas Suas, the representative body for independent providers in the early education and childcare sector.
Respondents were queried on a wide range of childcare related issues including their views on preferred State supports, difficulties in accessing childcare, priorities when choosing childcare and solutions to address staffing shortages in the sector.
Key findings include:
Impact of lack of access to childcare:
- Almost three in ten parents (28%) surveyed confirmed they either missed work, could not return to work after maternity leave or could not take up a new job or promotion because of a lack of childcare;
- Women were significantly more impacted than men by a lack of access to childcare, with almost twice as many women as men missing time at work or unable to take up a job offer or promotion.
On State supports:
- Three out of four of respondents support increased State investment in childcare services;
- Tax allowances emerge as the most popular form of possible State supports (41%), followed by a universal weekly payment for all pre-school children (not just those age three and over, as is currently the case) (33%).
- Challenges in accessing childcare:
- Affordability emerged as the largest challenge faced by families in accessing childcare, with almost seven out of ten respondents citing cost as a factor (68%), followed by availability of places (11%) and flexibility by providers on childcare days/hours required (10%).
Criteria for selecting childcare:
- Cost emerged as the largest priority when choosing childcare options (36%), followed by the reputation of a provider (29%). Location (15%) and quality of staff (13%) were the next highest considerations of respondents;
- There were also some regional variations in respondents’ selection criteria with reputation being a significantly larger consideration in Connacht-Ulster (66%) than was the case in Dublin (54%). However, this difference may arise due to the greater lack of access to childcare places in the capital.
Staffing shortage in the childcare sector:
- Difficulty in attracting and retaining staff to work in the early education and childcare sector is becoming a growing issue for many parts of the country. Respondents to the survey were asked their views on the best ways to attract more people into the profession.
- 42% of respondents believe that State supports in the early education and childcare sector should match what the Government spends on primary and secondary education sectors respectively;
- Almost a third of respondents (32%) support the introduction of a dedicated Apprenticeship scheme for entrants to the sector, allowing trainees to work at entry level in the sector while securing their full qualification.
On the survey’s findings, Regina Bushell, Chairperson of Seas Suas, commented:
“This survey confirms a lot of what early education and childcare providers are already hearing every day from the parents whose children we care for.
"For working parents affording childcare is one of the biggest challenges they face, this situation is made all the worse by the underfunding of the sector by successive Governments. While State supports have increased in recent years, Ireland still lags far behind most other EU states.
"It is also very disappointing to see the impact the lack of affordable childcare is having on women, in particular.
"We live in an era where many social barriers have been broken down, but as our survey shows, many women continue to be impeded in reaching their full potential in the workplace, as they disproportionately carry the burden of the lack of access to childcare.
"Acess to childcare places is becoming a growing issue in some parts of Ireland, particularly our larger cities, with this problem also reflected in the survey findings. Indeed, the recent interpretation of regulations on sleep and rest have resulted in a reduction of childcare places amongst providers for children under two years.
"As Ireland now reaches full employment, access to affordable childcare is not just a concern for women or families but a significant societal and economic issue, which will impede our further growth unless meaningfully addressed through increased State supports for families", added Ms. Bushell.
The research was conducted in December by Amárach Research, with a total sample of 1,000 respondents based on gender, age, social class and region to achieve a sample aligned with national population.