Editorial

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Crippling childcare costs affecting labour market

Published 19/03/2014|02:30

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Ireland: high childcare costs
Ireland: high childcare costs

Anyone with pre-school children or children requiring full-time childcare will be well aware of the exorbitant costs involved. Now the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has declared that Ireland, along with the US, has the highest childcare costs of its 34 member states. Incredibly, almost 40pc of the average wage here is needed to pay for two children in full-time childcare, a cost that is crippling many families, apart altogether from the knock-on consequences for the labour market.

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This is where the OECD comes in with a strong suggestion that the situation has to be tackled by the Government.

Limited availability, but particularly the high costs involved, are a "strong barrier" to women rejoining the workforce, they say.

While people might point to an unemployment rate of 12.8pc, and the huge numbers of men who are unemployed, there is little doubt that in certain industries, such as hotel and catering, there are thousands of jobs available but people won't take them because of the 'welfare trap'. This effectively means that many families are better off collecting social welfare than working.

Another knock-on effect is that after a number of years of not working, people become dependant on social welfare. More than one in six Irish adults live in a jobless household and this is something the Department of Social Protection needs to tackle in the forthcoming Budget.

One way of getting people, and particularly women, back in the workforce, the OECD suggests, is for short-term subsidised childcare that would allow women to go back to work and prevent them falling into the 'welfare trap'.

Youth Affairs and Children Minister Frances Fitzgerald is also aware that lack of access to affordable, quality childcare is a significant barrier to many low-income and disadvantaged families seeking to avail of work opportunities. But the minister's department said that €260m has been earmarked to support childcare programmes, including a free pre-school year from which 86,000 children will benefit.

It is now estimated that full-time childcare can cost between €730 and €1,100 per month and clearly this is a barrier to many mothers going back into the labour market. It is time the Government tackled this situation, either by driving costs down for childcare or helping families where a parent wants to go back to work with a tax break or a subsidy.

BOOK CENSORSHIP SHOULD SIMPLY BE LEFT ON THE SHELF

It seems absolutely farcical that the Government has appointed a new Censorship of Publications Board to adjudicate on just one book, 'Laura: A Story You Will Never Forget', which was written by none other than the Justice Minister Alan Shatter and is the story of a fictional politician's steamy sex life and was written and published almost 25 years ago. Not only do we have a Censorship of Publications Board, but we also have a Censorship of Publications Appeals Board, in case the new board makes an adjudication on 'Laura' and either the author or the complainant disagrees with the outcome of its deliberations.

It is estimated that by the middle of the last century 1,700 titles had been banned and many great Irish writers such as Liam O'Flaherty, Frank O'Connor, Edna O'Brien and Sean O'Faolain, had fallen foul of the censor (but not James Joyce, as is often supposed). For this reason alone, many people would like to finally see the back of this state organisation, which many feel has given the impression that it was conceived to impose narrow Catholic ideology on the unfortunate readers of the Republic.

The last book to be banned was in 1998, but because of some bureaucratic quirk the Government has now appointed a new Censorship Board to give its verdict on Mr Shatter's opus. Surely the internet age we live in, when almost anything can be viewed or read online, makes the whole charade unnecessary, if not slightly surreal. In fact, the celebrated Flann O'Brien, one of the rare unbanned Irish writers, might have written a comical piece about it all were he around to do so.

Irish Independent

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