New Unicef report finds Ireland is one of the most expensive countries in the WORLD for childcare
My Norwegian friends could not believe it when I told them what I paid for childcare here in Ireland.
When my eldest was a toddler, we lived in my hometown of Oslo. For her to attend creche there, what I paid for her full-time place worked out at around €300 per month.
Fast forward a couple of years, when my little boy was going to creche in here in Dublin, and the cost was something else entirely. His full-time place cost €1280 per month – meaning, once I had deducted the cost of creche from my monthly salary, not much was left.
This will not sound surprising at all to anyone who has had to pay for childcare in Ireland.
In fact, according to a new Unicef report, Ireland ranks among the world’s most expensive countries for childcare as families are forced to spend half of their salaries on average for the service.
The report, entitled Where Do Rich Countries Stand on Childcare, found that in Ireland, New Zealand and Switzerland, a couple with an average income would need to spend between a third and a half of one salary to pay for two children in childcare.
So what this means is that affordable, quality childcare is inaccessible in many of the world’s wealthiest countries.
On the other end of the scale, Luxembourg, Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Germany rank the highest on childcare provisions among high-income countries.
Henrietta Fore, Unicef Executive Director said the highest-ranking countries in the report’s league table combine affordability with quality of organised childcare. These countries also combine this with long and well-paid leave to both mothers and fathers, giving parents a choice in how to care for their children.
“To give children the best start in life, we need to help parents build the nurturing and loving environment that is so critical to children’s learning, emotional well-being and social development," Fore said about the report's findings.
“Government investment in family-friendly policies, including childcare, ensures parents have the necessary time, resources and services they need to support their children at every stage of their development."
The report notes that less than half of countries offer at least 32 weeks of leave at full pay for mothers. When paternal leave is offered – always substantially shorter – few fathers take it because of professional and cultural barriers, though this trend is changing.
Unicef advocates for at least six months of paid parental leave and universal access to quality, affordable childcare from birth to children’s entry into the first grade of school.
“Giving parents the support necessary to provide children with a strong foundation is not just good social policy, it is good economic policy,” added Fore.
The body also called for investment in the childcare workforce, their qualifications and their working conditions, to encourage the highest possible standards.
Fore explains that while well-designed leave helps parents during the early moments of a child’s life, once this support ends and parents are ready to return to work, childcare can help parents secure a balance between caring for their children, paid work, and taking care of their own well-being. Yet, the end of paid leave rarely coincides with the start of entitlements to affordable childcare, leaving families struggling to fill this gap.
The report noted that COVID-19-related closures of childcare facilities have pushed families of young children into further difficult circumstances.