PARENTS need to earn up to €30,000 a year just to fund the cost of childcare for two children.
A survey by the Irish Independent shows that it costs up to €1,150 a month for a creche place for a baby.
And for both a baby and toddler the cost can rise as high as €2,035 per month.
But to meet that monthly expense for two children a mother would need to earn €30,000 a year - which after tax would leave her with €2,071 a month, or virtually nothing once the childcare costs were paid.
The average price of a creche place in our survey was €888 for a baby and €1,596 for two children - so you'd need to earn €22,000 a year just to break even on work, as that salary leaves you with just €1,611 a month after tax.
However, in Dublin the average price was even higher, coming in at €1,053 for a baby and €1,884 for two kids - which would entirely swallow up a €27,000 salary.
And despite stagnant wages, parents have also been hit with rises in childcare costs in the last year, with Central Statistic Office figures showing a 2.4pc increase.
A recent survey found 63pc were struggling to meet their childcare costs while 84pc of stay-at-home mothers wanted to work in some capacity but felt trapped by childcare costs.
Laura Haugh of online forum Mummypages.ie said: "We believe that some form of tax relief on childcare for families where single mums or both parents work outside of the home would go a long way."
An Irish Independent survey of 19 creches found a wide range of prices with a baby place ranging from €607 at Bright Start Creche in Wexford to €1,150 at Park Academy centres in south Dublin and Bray, Co Wicklow.
This could be reduced to €1,054 at Park Academy if signing up for 12 months' full-time care, and this lower rate is extended to two years if a second child is cared for there, as well as a 20pc sibling discount for the elder child.
A spokesperson for Park Academy said this new family fee structure had just been introduced "because for many mothers, it's when they have a second child that they really question whether they can afford to keep working."
The price for two children in our survey ranges from €1,040 at Bright Start in Wexford to €2,035 at Bright Horizons in Swords and Drogheda.
Bright Start owner Mary Whitney said that she had been in business since 1990 and employed 16 staff, and many parents who had been looked after there now sent their own children to her creche.
"I work here full time and take home the same wages as the girls working here, I didn't enter it to make a big profit and to have someone else running it for me. I'm delighted just to have a wage," she said.
The UK-based press office of Bright Horizons, which has 600 facilities worldwide, said: "Fees are carefully considered, taking into account all factors such as salaries, rent and rates in order for us to provide sustainable high-quality early care and education. We regularly benchmark against other comparable local provision."
Teresa Heeney, of Early Childhood Ireland, said that the increase in childcare costs in 2014 came after six or seven years of no increases.
She said the Government should provide a capitation grant per child to creches to subsidise high-quality care, as international research did not support direct tax breaks to parents.