Monthly creche fees in city €400 higher than in rural areas
A major gap has opened up in the cost of childcare, with families in urban areas paying hundreds of euro more every month than people living in rural areas.
Parents in the capital are forking out an average of €1,000 a month to have one child looked after in a creche. The average price in Carlow is €594.
The crippling costs are revealed in a new study of nearly 4,000 early learning and childcare services.
It shows that prices have increased by 3.6pc in the past year,- but the average hourly pay rate for staff in the sector is just over €12.55.
Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said the price rises had come "despite record investment".
She urged parents to "inform themselves of what they should expect to pay" in their area.
"The cost to families of early learning and care and school-age childcare remains higher in Ireland than in other OECD countries, with wide variation in fees across the country," she said.
Ms Zappone is involved in tough negotiations with Fin-ance Minister Paschal Donohoe ahead of Budget 2020.
The Herald understands she wants to have funding for up to five extra hours of subsidised childcare.
Parents can currently apply for as many as 40 hours of subsidised childcare per week, but this could be increased to 45 hours from next September.
Nationally, the average fee for full-time provision stands at €184 a week, or €736 per month.
The lowest full-time fees were recorded in Carlow, at €148.56 a week, with the highest in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, at €251.31.
If a child was cared for in a creche for 46 weeks of the year, families in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown would be paying €4,700 more.
The publication of the figures by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs coincides with the final preparations for the introduction of the National Childcare Scheme (NCS).
It will provide parents with a universal subsidy of 50 cent per hour towards the cost of a registered childcare place for up to 40 hours a week.
There is also a more targeted top-up for families depending on their income.