We're among four dearest nations for childcare at €771
Ireland has one of the highest populations of under-fives in Europe, but is among the costliest nations when it comes to childcare, a new report has shown.
The study revealed that Ireland has the second-highest percentage of children aged under five out of 38 countries across Europe.
The European Commission study revealed Ireland has 398,000 under-fives, which make up just over 8pc of our population, with only Turkey recording a higher number at nearly 10pc. Portugal has just over 5pc at pre-school age.
The Eurydice 2019 report on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe also revealed that Ireland is among four countries with the highest aver- age monthly fees for childcare for those under the age of three.
"Average monthly fees are the highest in Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Switzerland," the report says. "In Ireland, fees reach €771.
"These countries rely on market-driven mechanisms to supply early childhood education and care to children under three, although some subsidies for the most disadvantaged may be available."
Switzerland had the highest fees at around €2,150 a month, with England ranked second at just under €1,190.
Ireland is in third place at €771, with the Netherlands ranked fourth with average monthly fees of €572.
The study found that monthly fees for caring for children under three tend to be the lowest in the Baltic and Balkan countries, as well as in Sweden and Romania.
Sweden has average monthly fees of only €130, while Bulgarians pay €18 a month.
In Latvia, Lithuania, Roma- nia and Montenegro, early childhood education and care is free, with parents only having to pay for their children's meals.
Very low fees for education and care activities are charged Estonia, Malta, Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia.
In Spain, fees go from €59 to €328, while French parents can pay between €133 and €301 per month - less than half the amount paid by Irish parents.
In Finland, fees depend on family size, income and time spent in early childhood education and care, but they cannot exceed €289 a month.
In Norway, fees for a place in kindergarten are limited to 6pc of the household's income.
The report, which covers 38 Erasmus countries, said fees for early childcare and education are regulated in most European education systems, though not in Ireland, with countries usually setting fee ceilings.
"In Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, there are no regulations on fees and providers have autonomy in setting the price," said the report.
When it comes to qualifications, Ireland is one of the few countries where at least one staff member in a centre for early childhood care and education does not need to have a bachelor's level qualification.