Women twice as likely to miss work due to a lack of childcare
A lack of childcare has meant that almost 30pc of parents could not attend work or missed out on job opportunities, a new survey has found.
The research also found that women are twice as likely as men to miss work because they have no childcare.
The survey of 1,000 respondents was undertaken on behalf of Seas Suas, the representative body for independent providers in the early education and childcare sector.
Its chairperson, Regina Bushell, said: "We live in an era where many social barriers have been broken down. But as our survey shows, many women continue to be impeded in reaching their full potential in the workplace, as they disproportionately carry the burden of the lack of access to childcare."
Affordability emerged as the most significant challenge faced by families in accessing childcare, with almost seven out of 10 respondents citing cost as a factor.
Weighing the cost of childcare and the reputation of the provider also produced some interesting results, with more people making their childcare choices based on how it hit their budget, rather than on the reputation of the person who would be minding their children.
"This survey confirms a lot of what early education and childcare providers are already hearing every day from the parents whose children we care for," said Ms Bushell. "For working parents, affording childcare is one of the biggest challenges they face and this situation is made all the worse by the underfunding of the sector by successive governments.
"While State supports have increased in recent years, Ireland still lags far behind most other EU countries.
"It is also very disappointing to see the impact the lack of affordable childcare is having on women, in particular.
"As Ireland now reaches full employment, access to affordable childcare is not just a concern for women or families, but a significant societal and economic issue, which will impede our further growth unless meaningfully addressed through increased State supports for families."
There were also some regional variations in respondents' selection criteria for childcare, with reputation being a significantly larger consideration in Connacht-Ulster (66pc) than was the case in Dublin (54pc).
"This difference may arise due to the greater lack of access to childcare places in the capital," said Ms Bushell.
Perhaps not surprisingly, three out of four respondents support increased State investment in childcare services. Tax allowances emerged as the most popular form of possible State support, at 41pc, followed by a universal weekly payment for all pre-school children, at 33pc.
Some 42pc of respondents believe State supports should match what the Government spends on primary and secondary education, while almost a third support the introduction of an apprenticeship scheme for trainees to work at entry level in the sector while securing their full qualification.
Difficulty in attracting and retaining staff is a growing issue for many parts of the country, according to Seas Suas.