Irish women are being forced out of the workforce due to soaring childcare costs
Paying for childcare in Ireland, as all of us who are doing it knows, is so insanely expensive that for many, it becomes a situation where you are weighing up your options of staying at home or basically working just to cover the cost of someone else looking after your child.
The long-term effects of this, of course, is that Ireland, in comparison to, say, the Scandinavian countries, have far fewer women in leadership positions, in many cases because their careers had to be put on hold to stay at home with their young families simply because paying for childcare simply didn't make financial sense at the time.
Now the National Recruitment Federation (NRF) is warning that soaring childcare costs are continuing to push women out of the Irish labour force, while a “worryingly low” number of women are taking up employment.
According to the Irish Times, in its pre-budget submission, the representative body for the State’s recruitment industry warned that Irish childcare costs - which are among the highest in the 36 OECD countries - are preventing women from working.
The NRF said the rapid decline in unemployment poses “significant challenges for the economy”, and the low participation rates of women over the age of 35 needed to be addressed.
Irish women over the age of 35 have lower participation rates in the workforce than their EU counterparts while the lack of availability of affordable and after-school childcare is contributing to these low rates of participation, the pre-budget submission says.
“Childcare, essentially its provision and cost, and aspects of the social welfare system that discourage jobseekers from taking up part-time work, are the main issues to address if women are to be supported in going back to work,” said NRF president Frank Farrelly.
In other countries childcare costs are heavily subsidised by the state, unlike in Ireland where childcare costs are among the highest in the OECD. These high costs are “a particular disincentive” for women to return to the workforce, notes the report.
According to recentl figures, the average weekly cost of childcare for Irish parents is €155.60 per week (€622.40 per month), up from €123.50 per week in 2007. To many parents, including myself, these figures seem far lower than what we are actually paying, and certainly not reflective of prices of childcare in larger urban areas.
At present, the average weekly cost of childcare is highest in Dublin at €150 per child per week (or €600 per month), but many parents are paying prices far above these to find childcare in their local area.
By comparison, childcare in a high-quality, state-subsidised creche in Norway, Sweden and Denmark costs about €300 a month – for a full-time space. Something which, naturally, ensures that far more women (almost all women, in fact) can return to their careers after maternity leave ends.
Many are now calling for changes to be made to the Irish system.
“Proper investment in a structured childcare solution is needed, and, in terms of the cost of subsidised childcare, this is expenditure that Government can’t afford not to make, if we are to resource our labour market needs and drive economic progress,” said Mr Farrelly.
The submission calls on the Government to continue to invest in the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE) to ensure childcare services are affordable. The programme should be supplemented by out-of-school hours care to address the needs of working parents.