Childcare professionals march on Dáil to call for more funding

Demonstrators say Government needs to act to address sector’s low wages

About 2,000 people have taken part in a protest outside Leinster House calling for greater Government investment in the childhood sector.

The Association of Childhood Professionals, which organised the rally, said Ireland spends 0.2 per cent of its GDP on the early childhood sector while the European average is 0.7 per cent.

The association said more than 25,000 people work in the sector where the average wage is less than €11 an hour. Its chairwoman Marian Quinn said the situation is unsustainable because young people are opting for better paying careers instead of childcare.

“We have more and more young people who would have considered coming into childcare who are no longer coming into the profession because they can’t afford to make a career out of it. They won’t be able to afford pensions, they won’t be able to afford a car and they certainly won’t be able to get a mortgage.”


She said many workers in the sector earn as little as €9.50 an hour. “We’re saying that a qualified, experienced person should be coming in on around €25,000 a year and upwards on a pay scale.”

She said the Government needs to step in to provide more funding because most parents can’t afford higher childcare costs.

“The parents can’t afford to pay more and people who are working deserve to have a living wage,” she said.

The demonstration was attended by about 2,000 people, according to the organisers. Trade unions Impact and Siptu as well as Barnardos, Early Childhood Ireland, the National Women’s Council and the Union of Students in Ireland were represented.

The childcare professionals are specifically calling for the introduction of a national payscale to be in place within three to five years; the extension of the free pre-school year contract to be extended to a full calendar year; increased availability and uptake of Fetac level 6, degree and continuous professional development courses as well as investment in the babies to three years age group.

Rena Walsh, who owns a pre-school in Waterford, said the State gets a guaranteed return for its investment in early years childcare.

“Childcare is the only area where the Government is guaranteed a return on their investment,” she said. “The minimum payback is four times the investment. So for every euro the Government invests they get four back.”

Catherine O’Grady, a childcare worker also from Waterford, said the sector was stringently regulated but underfunded.

“We’re very highly qualified but we’re not recognised as a profession... We are very lowly paid but we’re taking care of the most important members of society – the children,” she said.

“If we didn’t work to the high standard we do, the children wouldn’t be developing the way they are and they wouldn’t be progressing and doing so well in school.”

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin is an Irish Times journalist