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Childcare costs are among the highest in Europe - as working parents shell out €861 a month

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Early Childhood Ireland chief executive Teresa Heeney

Early Childhood Ireland chief executive Teresa Heeney

Early Childhood Ireland chief executive Teresa Heeney

Working parents in Ireland are shelling out a fifth of their monthly net salary on childcare - four times the proportion paid by families in Sweden.

A survey of the financial burden of childcare across Europe estimates it costs a couple in this country an average of €861 a month, out of a disposable income of €4,228.

We now pay some of the highest childcare costs in Europe.

In Sweden, the monthly cost of childcare is €201 due to heavy state subsidies.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands the monthly cost is as high as €1,287 - taking 28pc of parents' net income.

In the UK, the monthly cost of childcare is estimated at €1,006, absorbing 25pc of the family's wages.

The research was compiled by the UK company Cuckooz Nest, which is involved in integrated creche facilities.

It also said that Luxembourg, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia and Hungary have some of the highest childcare costs as a proportion of average salary.

Commenting on Ireland's childcare costs, Early Childhood Ireland chief executive Teresa Heeney said they should start to ease in October when the National Childcare Scheme is due to come into effect.

This will include universal subsidies for all families with children under three years old.

They are also available to families with children over three years old who have not yet qualified for the free preschool programme (ECCE).

Recruiting

The subsidy is not means tested and provides 50c per hour toward the cost of a registered childcare place, for up to a maximum of 40 hours a week.

There will also be income assessed subsidies to families with children aged between 24 weeks and 15 years.

This subsidy is means tested and will be calculated based on individual circumstances. The rate will vary depending on the family income, child's age and educational stage, as well as the number of children in the family.

The subsidy can be used toward the cost of a registered childcare place for up to a maximum of 40 hours if a parent is working, studying or training.

Ms Heeney warned there were still difficulties recruiting and retaining childcare staff.

"They are still getting very low wages," she said, adding that it remains an "ongoing challenge".

A survey of childcare providers by Early Childhood Ireland found pay and poor working conditions in the sector as being central to a staffing crisis.

Some 65pc are finding it difficult to retain staff - an increase of 16pc on 2017.

Of those services that lost staff in the past year, almost two-thirds indicated the primary reason given by departing staff was that working in the sector was not financially viable. Among childcare providers that indicated they have struggled to hire staff in the past 12 months, one in five had to limit the services they provided to families as a result.

One childcare provider said that a lot of staff would get paid more walking into a supermarket with no qualifications.