Creche workers should be fully qualified and listed on a national register, a new industry body has urged.
The Association of Childhood Professionals (ACP) has been launched to represent up to 22,500 people working in creches and pre-schools, as well as in homes.
It has called for an initial statutory minimum requirement for all childhood professionals of a FETAC level 5 childcare qualification together with a national register.
Only those who are qualified and registered should be eligible for employment.
The qualification is currently required for professionals delivering the free pre-school year, but not for other age groups of children in childcare.
ACP chairperson Marian Quinn said that it was also calling for a standard childhood sector contract to be developed, which includes permanent contracts in pre-schools to improve continuity in the workplace and bring greater job security.
"The sector needs accessible progression routes for training, a proper career path and remuneration structure.
"For example, a room leader in a creche would require additional training and experience compared to an entrant, and a creche manager would need further training and experience for that role," Ms Quinn said.
"It is unsustainable to continue with the very high rate of staff turnover and short-term contract working.
"Those who are best qualified are leaving the sector for areas with career paths. This creates an ongoing skills gap and de-professionalises the sector."
The ACP was formally launched by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald.
Branches are already established in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Kildare, Kilkenny and Wexford, and the association hopes to develop branches across the country this year.
The ACP aims to represent all professionals working in early years and after-school care.
Meanwhile, the issues surrounding pay and qualifications among childcare workers were recently discussed in the Dail.
It followed a programme by RTE which revealed breaches in childcare standards at three creches.