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Lack of access to childcare contributing to women's poverty and inequality

3 November, 2004


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has said the lack of access to childcare was a contributory factor to women's poverty. He said, "Without access to childcare, women who are primary carers for children either cannot work, cannot work on a full-time basis or cannot obtain the further education or training that would qualify them for better paid work. Lack of childcare is therefore a key factor in the feminisation of poverty." Deputy Ó Snodaigh made his comments during the course of the Sinn Féin Private Members Motion on Childcare in the Dáil this evening.

The Dublin South Central TD said, "Childcare is a litmus for a Government's commitment to equality and social and economic justice.

"While the present lack of access to childcare in this state is an issue for all parents, it disproportionately affects women, who are the majority of primary or sole carers of children in Ireland. In fact the National Women's Council has identified the lack of affordable quality childcare as the single most significant barrier to women's equal participation in all aspects of society.

"Without access to childcare, women who are primary carers for children either cannot work, cannot work on a full-time basis or cannot obtain the further education or training that would qualify them for better paid work. Lack of childcare is therefore also a key factor in the feminisation of poverty, which affects almost one quarter of all women. Women's inability to take paid employment or full-time employment due to caring responsibilities is the biggest contributor to the gender pay gap currently remaining at 15%. Inability to access higher education due to caring responsibilities has also resulted in the concentration of women in lower paid low level or part-time positions in the retail, food and IT sectors. More than half those earning below the minimum wage are women.

"Lack of access to childcare is a factor directly contributing to women's relative poverty and persistent inequality. The impact on single parents, again overwhelmingly women, is even greater.

"For the past four years the Women's Council has therefore demanded a guaranteed quality childcare place for all children which is accessible and affordable for parents, as a socio-economic right. They reiterated that demand as recently as yesterday in front of the gates of this House. But the Government's response to date has been dismal.

"Universal childcare, available as of right, is absolutely essential. Without it, there will never be education equality for women, nor will there be employment equality for women. Universal childcare is a necessary precondition of gender equality in this state.

"As long as access to childcare is determined by whether parents can afford to pay for it, there will also never be socio-economic equality in Ireland.

"In conclusion, universal access to childcare is not only fundamental to gender equality it is necessary to progress us towards the Ireland of Equals republicans are seeking to build." ENDS

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