THE cost of childcare is "crippling middle-income families", a parenting expert has claimed.
Laura Haugh made the remarks as a survey of more than 2,400 parents found 83pc believe the country is in the midst of a childcare and early education "crisis".
The study was carried out by MummyPages.ie in response to a government call for feedback on investment in early years and school-age care.
Ms Haugh, the parenting website's mum-in-residence, said the cost of childcare is a huge burden on families.
"It's crippling middle-income families, costing parents 35pc of their salary - that's 20pc more than our European counterparts," she told the Herald.
Other findings in the survey include:
l 69pc of stay-at-home mums do so because they can't afford childcare.
l 35pc turned down jobs due to the cost of putting their children in a creche.
l 93pc of parents think the Government should provide a subsidy to all schools running after-school care.
l 84pc of working parents struggle to budget for their childcare costs.
Mums are in favour of adopting a more affordable childcare model, citing Scandinavian countries as examples, even if it meant higher taxes for everyone or reducing the current child benefit payment, the survey found.
Ms Haugh said she was not surprised by what has been learned from the study.
"These are the pressures that are facing families. Relationships suffer when both partners are desperately trying to keep things going," she said.
She added that she hopes the results of the survey will be taken seriously by the Government, and said improved childcare provisions would contribute to Ireland's economic recovery.
"Childcare has been put on the long finger for far too long and it's about time the Government funded it properly because it would facilitate mothers getting back into working life and that means they will pay more taxes," Ms Haugh said.
Issues faced by stay-at-home parents were the focus of many of the questions.
The survey found that 77pc would like to return to the workplace full-time if childcare was more affordable.
Three-quarters said they feel it is their responsibility to do all childcare and housework jobs, while 50pc said they receive no help from their partner.
The increased cost of childcare has even caused self-esteem issues among women - nearly 60pc of mothers surveyed said they feel they have lost respect since becoming a stay-at-home mum.
Former work colleagues and friends with children who work outside the home are those most likely to instil low self-esteem in mothers, the study found.