Thursday 18 July 2019

We're one of worst in Europe for family-friendly policies

Ireland is one of the worst places in Europe for family friendly policies and affordable childcare, a new Unicef report has found. Stock Image
Ireland is one of the worst places in Europe for family friendly policies and affordable childcare, a new Unicef report has found. Stock Image

Markus Krug

Ireland is one of the worst places in Europe for family friendly policies and affordable childcare, a new Unicef report has found.

Low levels of paid leave for parents and a lack of young children enrolled in childcare were to blame for the low placing in an international league.

The study ranked 41 high and middle income countries across the OECD and European Union on family friendly practices.

Ten countries were not ranked due to a lack of comparable data, but of the remaining 31, Ireland is ranked a lowly 27th. The research also found:

The State is 37th overall in paid maternity leave with nine weeks compared to 85 weeks in Estonia;

33rd in paid paternity leave with zero weeks compared to 30.4 in Japan;

18th in childcare enrolment under three years of age with 29pc compared to 70pc in Denmark;

Eighth in childcare enrolment between three and school age with 56pc compared to 99pc in Iceland.

Meanwhile Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Estonia and Portugal offer the best family friendly policies among 31 rich countries with available data.

Unicef ranked the countries on their length of maternity and paternity leave and the proportions of pre-school children above and below the age of three in childcare.

Commenting on the findings, a spokesperson for Early Childhood Ireland said: "The data from today's report is disappointing but not surprising. Ireland's levels of investment in early years are critically low.

"While some important progress has been made in recent years, Ireland still invests the lowest amount in early years of any EU country.

"Increased investment is key to addressing the issues raised by this report, and to ensuring that children are supported to have the best possible start in life."

Yekaterina Chzhen, lead author of the report, said: "All of these countries are rich compared to the rest of the world, so all of them can afford to invest in children and family friendly policies.

"Some of them could perhaps be more effective and efficient in spending money in this area."

The Irish Government has made recent moves to enhance parental leave under 'First 5', a strategy for early childhood.

It pledges that by 2021, parents will have an individual entitlement to seven weeks of paid parental leave, to potentially allow children to benefit from an additional 14 weeks' parental care in their first year.

And when the plan is rolled out, parents of all children up to age 12 are entitled to 26 weeks' unpaid parental leave.

The National Childcare Scheme comes in this November with subsidies of up to €5.10 per hour for babies placed in registered childcare facilities.

Irish Independent

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