Sunday 25 September 2016

Childcare costs force thousands of mums out of work

Published 16/04/2015 | 02:30

3,000 mothers a year in Ireland give up work because of childcare costs, while more than 8,000 more look for a job with more flexible hours according to new research
3,000 mothers a year in Ireland give up work because of childcare costs, while more than 8,000 more look for a job with more flexible hours according to new research

The high cost of childcare is forcing 3,000 mothers a year out of the Irish workforce.

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And the loss of so many experienced workers costs businesses more than €68m per year as they try to replace lost skills, new research has shown.

Software company Citrix and parenting site Eumom revealed how childcare costs and inflexible office culture force many mothers to give up work.

A study found thousands more mothers returning to work will switch jobs to get more flexible hours.

Close to 900 pregnant women or mothers of babies were surveyed and the results were extrapolated to give a nationwide estimate of the working intentions of Irish mothers.

Based on the research, 3,000 mothers a year in Ireland give up work because of childcare costs, while more than 8,000 more look for a job with more flexible hours.

It found that almost half of those planning not to return to work blamed the prohibitive cost of childcare and 49pc were unhappy with government measures in the area.

Seven out of 10 wanted legislation to give a tax break or subsidy for childcare, while 46pc would like legislation to guarantee the option to work part time.

But parents will have to wait for assistance with their childcare costs, as Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said yesterday that it will be after the next General Election in 2016 before a second year of pre-school childcare could be delivered upon.

While saying the measure is a "major priority" for her, she said it would form part of any Labour Programme for Government.

"I would expect that would be part of any Labour Party Programme for Government in the next government. Obviously, it is costly. There is a study under way by Jan O'Sullivan to look at the quality of the current pre-school year which has been very important for parents," she said. "I have made no secret of the fact that I would like to see that expanded, but it has to be expanded on quality terms."

Meanwhile, the brain drain caused by mothers being forced to give up work has also had a massive impact on companies' bottom line, according to a parallel survey of business managers by Citrix.

It found it takes an average of seven months to recruit and train a new employee to be as productive as the former staff member.

Based on the average hourly wage of €21, that adds up to a typical cost of €23,000 per employee, or €68.7m in total.

A huge pool of female talent is being lost every year because of high childcare costs, said Citrix Northern Europe vice-president Jacqueline de Rojas.

"This is a critical issue for the economy, as evidenced by the estimated €68m being spent by firms replacing women who would have liked to remain working," she said.

Irish women remained poorly represented at senior level in business but this was not the case in Sweden, which had generous childcare benefits.

Irish Independent

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