A QUARTER of parents are prevented from returning to work because of the high costs of childcare which are prohibitive for most low-income families.
A new report being launched by Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald has found that a two-child family faces an annual bill of €16,500 a year for fulltime childcare.
The study by Indecon consultants finds that fulltime monthly childcare costs between €730 and €1,100 per month for young children.
It estimates that the fulltime costs over a 10-month period is €9,150 for one child and €16,470 for two.
In Ireland there are over a quarter of a million families with children under five years of age, meaning childcare is a very significant issue.
Average crèche costs are equivalent to 30pc of a family's mortgage repayments and around half of household expenditure on food.
Childcare costs in Ireland are the second highest in the OECD as a percentage of average wages, it notes.
For lone parents they add up to 45pc of average wages which is consistent with evidence that these costs are a barrier to employment, the report finds.
Nearly 26pc of parents with children at nine months said childcare had prevented them looking for a job or training or made them leave employment.
This rose to 56pc among families on low incomes who said childcare costs prevented them looking for a job.
Childrens Minister Frances Fitzgerald launched the report in Dublin today. It was carried out by Indecon on behalf of Donegal County Childcare Committee (DCCC).
It proposes two key new measures to help families most in need of assistance.
These are a tax incentive to assist lowincome families to fund the cost of childcare and a direct payment for childcare to families receiving the Family Income Supplement, which is a topup for lowearning working families.
It said that these measures would have cost benefits for the government by increasing tax revenues, reducing social welfare payments and curbing the black economy.
DCCC manager Avril McMonagle said research had shown there would be strong interest in such schemes.
"By facilitating unemployed parents to return to work or remain in employment these initiatives would see an economic benefit to the tax payer in the long run."
Aideen Sheehan, Consumer Correspondent