herald

Sunday 9 December 2018

Nearly a third of parents missing out on work due to lack of childcare - study

Women are twice as likely to miss work over childcare
Women are twice as likely to miss work over childcare

A lack of childcare has meant almost 30pc of parents could not attend work or missed out on job opportunities, a new survey has found.

The research also shows that women are twice as likely as men to miss work because they have no childcare.

The survey of 1,000 respondents was carried out on behalf of Seas Suas, the representative body for independent providers in the early education and childcare sector.

"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," said Seas chairperson Regina Bushell.

Affordability emerged as the biggest challenge faced by families in accessing childcare, with almost seven out of ten respondents citing cost as a factor.

Weighing the cost of childcare and the reputation of the provider also produced some interesting results, with more people making their childcare choices based on how it hit their budget rather than on the reputation of the person who would be minding their children.

Challenges

"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," said Ms Bushell.

"For working parents, aff- ording childcare is one of the biggest challenges they face, and this situation is made 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 countries.

"It is also very disappointing to see the impact the lack of affordable childcare is having on women, in particular.

"As Ireland now reaches full employment, access to aff- ordable 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 supp-orts for families."

Variations

There were also some regional variations in respondents' selection criteria for childcare, with reputation being a significantly larger consideration in Connacht-Ulster (66pc) than in Dublin (54pc).

"This difference may arise due to the greater lack of access to childcare places in the capital," said Ms Bushell.

Three out of four respondents support increased state investment in childcare services.

Tax allowances emerge as the most popular form of possible state supports at 41pc - followed by 33pc of respondents calling for a universal weekly payment for all pre-school children, not only those aged three and over.

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, according to the survey.

A total of 42pc of respondents believe 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 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.

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