Catherine Donnelly: Time for the State to live up to its responsibilities
Published 14/01/2016 | 02:30
It is more than 40 years since equality legislation started to transform the lives of working women in Ireland, with developments such as the ending of the ban on married women in the Civil Service and the introduction of maternity protection.
A natural follow-up would have been State support for mothers of young children, with a meaningful childcare scheme offering the quality cover necessary to give them the choice of continuing their careers.
Childcare also needs to be affordable if parents - and it usually is mothers - are to have a realistic choice.
It is only a few years since the State stepped in with a free pre-school year - and that is only for three hours a day, 38 weeks of the year. Another free year is on the way, but it still falls short of what a working parent, employed for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks of the year needs.
Parents end up juggling their responsibilities and time to try to keep everything going.
The lucky ones, who can afford it, are paying out up to €25,000 a year or more for two children in full-time professional childcare - probably soaking up the take-home pay of one half of the couple, while the rest goes on the mortgage.
Many value the childminder, who may have no professional qualifications but is well versed on raising a family, and may be less expensive than a crèche - but that option is not always available.
Au pairs come and go, and, increasingly, grandparents are called on to fill gaps and help cut the costs.
It is now past time for the State to live up to its responsibilities.