Staff shortages at creches prompt ‘job plus housing’ offers

Childcare industry hit especially hard by staffing shortages due to low wages and lack of housing

Karen Clince, chief executive of Tigers Childcare: Despite working full-time, most of her colleagues struggle to put a roof over their head, afford food and pay for childcare themselves. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Staff shortages forced Tigers Childcare to reduce hours recently at one of its creches in Dublin. With 16 positions to fill across 15 branches in Ireland, chief executive Karen Clince didn’t want to reduce services further.

When several recent hires reneged on job offers after failing to find accommodation, Ms Clince knew she needed to do something.

“We were hoping the situation would change and pay in the sector would go up in September but because those things aren’t happening, it’s putting more pressure on us to be creative and find solutions outside of the box,” said Ms Clince.

She is now looking into renting a home or two to provide accommodation for employees at a lower cost. She is prioritising places on a commuter line or near public transportation.


The childcare industry has been hit especially hard by staffing shortages. With low salaries driving many Irish people from the industry, most childcare workers are recruited from the EU, primarily Spain and Portugal. But Dublin’s high cost of living and lack of accommodation is discouraging these workers from coming to Ireland.

The average hourly wage for a childcare worker, excluding managers, is €12.45 according to the 2019-2020 annual Early Years’ Service Profile survey – far below the living wage.

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Ms Clince said, despite working full-time, most of her colleagues struggled to put a roof over their head, afford food and pay for childcare themselves.

“Our colleagues have done so much for the sector in the past few years. They’ve been ridiculously patient when it comes to pay scale negotiations. They’ve been incredible during the Covid crisis when they were asked to work in conditions that put themselves at risk. I think the Government has to step up and support them.”

That support, said Ms Clince, should be the Government backing an increase in wages and moving forward with the Core Funding model that has been promised to the sector.

The situation at Tigers Childcare is not unique.

Ivonne González, manager of Giraffe Childcare in Stepaside, Co Dublin, faced similar staffing issues during the summer.

“Let’s say we’d hire 25 people. Half of them will accept the job and come to Ireland. And then only half of those will survive the first month, with many returning to their home country after not being able to find housing,” said Ms González.

In June, the creche reduced hours and closed rooms due to staff shortages.

For Anita Sermersheim and her husband, who pay close to €25,000 a year to send their two children Alex (3) and Max (2) to Giraffe, this was a major disruption. “The decision of being a stay-at-home parent was not my choice,” said Ms Sermersheim.

Ms González understood parents’ frustration. But with fewer than 300 homes to rent in Dublin on August 1st according to the 2022 Rental Report, competition for housing is fierce.

To help new employees find accommodation, Ms Gonzalez reached out to parents, asking if they knew of available rooms or apartments, even temporarily, to allow new employees time to find a permanent place. This gave Ms Sermersheim an idea. After speaking to neighbours and parents, several families offered to rent rooms in their homes to new Giraffe employees.

“While we decided we couldn’t commit to hosting someone for a year, many of us could do it for a couple of months. And that’s how it all started,” said Ms Sermersheim.

When Giraffe’s newest hire, Pablo Bonilla, arrived in Ireland from Spain on August 15th, he had accommodation. The Sermersheims are renting him a room until December when they have guests for the holidays.

Unlike many room rentals, Ms Sermersheim said Mr Bonilla had full access to common areas and did not have to leave on the weekend.

She joked that it was not a bribe as Mr Bonilla did not work in either of her children’s rooms at Giraffe. “I just hope he’s having a good day and that translates into the care he gives to the children,” said Ms Sermersheim. “He’s become like a third son to us.”

Mr Bonilla considers himself lucky. “If it’s difficult for everybody to find a room, but for males it is even more difficult,” he said. “Most of the landlords and ads I see are only looking for a girl.”

If Mr Bonilla can’t find a room by December, “maybe I have to go back to Madrid because I’m not going to sleep on the street”.

For Ms Gonzalez, the parental initiative has allowed Giraffe Stepaside to return to normal operating hours. Next week, a new hire from Spain arrives in Dublin and will rent a room with a child’s grandmother for two months.

“We have three more staff starting on Monday and two more starting on September 12th,” said Ms Gonzalez. “They all have accommodation and have booked their flights so they’re coming into the country for sure.”