Childcare costs here among the most expensive in Europe
Ireland has one of the largest proportions of under-fives in Europe, but is among the costliest nations when it comes to childcare, according to a new report.
It also found Ireland is one of the few countries where there are no limits placed on fees for early childcare.
The European Commission study of 38 countries revealed that Ireland has 398,000 under-fives, who make up just over 8pc of our population, with only Turkey recording a higher proportion at nearly 10pc.
The Eurydice 2019 report on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe also revealed that Ireland is among four countries with the highest average monthly childcare fees for children under three.
"Average monthly fees are the highest in Ireland, the Netherlands, the UK and Switzerland. In Ireland, average monthly fees reach €771," it said. "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, while England ranked second at just under €1,190, while Ireland is in third place with €771 and the Netherlands is fourth, with average monthly fees of €572.
Fees were lowest in the Baltic and Balkan countries, as well as Romania and Sweden. In Bulgaria, parents pay just €18 a month.
In Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Montenegro, early childhood education and care is entirely free, with parents only paying for their child's meals.
The report said fees for early childcare and education are regulated in most European education systems - but not in Ireland - with countries usually setting fee ceilings.
"In Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK, there are no regulations on fees, and providers have autonomy in setting the price," it said.
When it comes to the qualifications, Ireland is one of the few countries where at least one staff member in a childcare centre does not have to have a bachelor's level qualification.
It added: "The education authority has no responsibility for early childhood care and education provision in only three education systems: Denmark, Germany and Ireland."