'Childcare staff pay for supplies from own pocket - and few get maternity pay'
Most childcare workers have paid for educational supplies, including toys, out of their own pockets, it has been revealed.
And 72pc said they regularly do unpaid work as part of their job, according to a new survey of workers in the early years sector to be launched today.
It also reveals that 98pc of workers in the sector - or 21,800 staff - are women but only 11pc get paid maternity leave.
Siptu, which commissioned the report by social scientist Dr Amy Greer Murphy, said a high staff turnover of 25pc is having a negative effect on the quality of services being provided to children.
A massive 94pc of those surveyed said they found it hard to make ends meet, 84pc are not able to cope with unexpected expenses like buying a washing machine or boiler and 51pc are actively looking for another job.
Just under 66pc said they had paid for educational materials out of their own pocket.
Most said low pay was their biggest problem, with educators and practitioners getting an average wage of €10.96 an hour.
'Room leaders' are on €11.89 an hour and managers on €15.03.
Average pay for Dublin staff across all grades is highest at €12.89 an hour while the lowest pay is in Co Kerry at €10.81 an hour.
Siptu head of strategic organising Darragh O'Connor said the findings are deeply troubling and show a profession living in poverty with low pay and a basic lack of entitlements.
"High-quality early years education is based on the relationship between the professional and child," he said.
"However poverty pay and conditions mean that early- years professionals are struggling to make ends meet."
He said many workers talk about their lives being put on hold because buying a house or starting a family is financially impossible.
"In the upcoming Budget, the Government has an opportunity to establish a threshold of decency by supporting a living wage for all early years educators and address the staffing crisis that is undermining quality," he said.
The report said the future of the sector is at stake due to so many staff indicating a desire to move job or leave the sector entirely.
It said this is a poor indicator of the sustainability of the current model of early years provision in Ireland.
Most of the 25,262 staff - some 15,824 - work for private operators while 9,338 work at community childcare facilities.