Low-paid creche workers demand respect from Government
PARENTS respect our job and now it is time for the Government, childcare workers demanded yesterday.
They left their jobs in creches, montessori's and early childcare centres around the country to gather outside the Dail to highlight the need for better funding for the sector.
"We are early educators," said Grainne Toomey, who made the four-hour trip from Ballybunion, Co Kerry and joined up to 1,000 protesters who were determined to let the Government know they are more than "glorified babysitters".
"Parents respect the job we do and its time for the Government to respect us as well," she said.
Ms Toomey, who manages Tir na nOg Early Child Care Centre, expressed concern that most of those in the industry earn little above the minimum wage.
The sentiment was echoed by Donna Tobin and Karen O'Connell, who have both invested in their education. Ms Tobin from Waterford and Ms O'Connell from Dublin both have a Masters Degree in Child, Family and Community Studies from DIT. Despite their qualifications both are working for less than €10 per hour.
"We want to be given the same respect as primary school teachers. We are highly qualified," said Ms O'Connell, who works with the HSE.
The Association of Childhood Professionals said there are around 25,000 people in the sector on an average pay rate of less than €11 an hour and called for a Government-backed pay scale with more investment in childhood care. Children's Minister James Reilly's office said a group was being set up to examine the issues.
How Ireland compares on childcare cost
IRELAND is now the most expensive country in Europe for childcare, according to the OECD, and worldwide only parents in the US face a similar cost burden in having their children minded.
Childcare workers may be on the breadline, but a parent would need to earn up to €30,000 just to fund the cost of a crèche for two children, a recent survey by the Irish Independent revealed. A crèche place for a baby costs an average of €888 a month, but in Dublin this can rise as high as €1,150, while for two children the monthly cost can exceed €2,000.
This may explain why a third of women in their 30s said in a recent poll they've put off having children because of financial pressures.
A baby boom in recent years means Ireland has one of the most youthful populations in Europe, but childcare costs place more of a burden on families here than in other countries.
Subsidies in other countries mean parents there typically pay just 12pc of the average wage in childcare costs, but this rises to 40pc in Ireland, the OECD found.
While the free preschool year - which is actually just two and a quarter free childcare hours a day - has eased the burden slightly on parents, the childcare sector points out that the Government here still spends just 0.2pc of GDP on early childhood compared to an OECD average of 0.7pc.
And the ESRI warned recently that high childcare rates are a major factor behind the disturbing number of jobless households in Ireland.