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Affordable childcare essential to women's participation in workforce and improved outcomes in childhood development - Carol Nolan TD

31 January, 2018

Sinn Féin TD for Offaly Carol Nolan has said that affordable childcare is essential for women's participation in the workforce and improved outcomes in childhood development.

Speaking in the Dáil supporting the Childcare Support Bill 2017, Teachta Nolan said;

"This is an important piece of legislation to support maternal employment and enhance the quality of early childhood development outcomes for children.

"The participation of Irish women in the workforce is lagging critically behind other OECD countries and currently sits in 33rd position.

"It is substantially documented that low levels of participation by women in the workforce and poor outcomes for early childhood development are the two of the most significant drivers contributing to our poor progress.

"According to a survey undertaken by Citrix entitled the ‘Baby Brain Drain’ it estimated that more that 3,000 Irish mothers are leaving the workforce annually due to the excessive costs of childcare, and it is costing Irish companies an estimated €68 million.

"The lack of affordable childcare is one of the most significant barriers to the participation of women in the workforce.

"It inhibits both those already in employment from seeking increased hours of work, and it inhibits stay-at-home mothers from re-entering the workforce.

"It is not surprising that employment rates for mothers decrease as the number of children increases, with the decline particularly large once the mother has three or more children aged 0-14.

"It is time that childcare services are vested, alongside transport or technology, as a necessary element of economic infrastructure.

"However, labour market participation is not the only attainment indicator where Ireland is lagging behind. Across the OECD policymakers are concerned about child well-being and child development.

"Ireland’s ranking in this regard has been determined by poor investment in pre-school child development resources as traditionally we have left it until primary school for such investment to take shape.

"Needless to say vulnerable children, either those with intellectual or sensory disabilities; or children with special medical needs; are failed entirely in terms of equitable access to appropriate day-care and pre-school services.

“Children cared for by relatives or figures such as childminders experience fewer emotional and peer problems than children who are looked after by their parents full-time”

"A study undertaken by the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin examined the behaviour of 9,000 children at age three and age five concluded that children had fewer behavioural problems, emotional difficulties and peer problems when cared for by non-parental relatives or non-relatives such as childminders, than children cared for full-time by their parents.

"Most significantly, children from the lowest social categories or lone-parent households were shown to benefit more from crèche care. 

"This Bill is an important step on the way to bringing Ireland in line with international best practice. Its investment in early years care and education will mean more children are accessing affordable, quality services and that more women are facilitated to participate in the workforce both during the pre-school years and after commencement of Primary School.

"It is also important that any investment in early childhood resources ensures fair pay and conditions for workers in the sector and that minimally they will be paid a living wage.

"In this centenary year celebrating women’s suffrage, Mná na hÉireann are still negotiating parity of esteem on the most basic equality issue – equal access to the workforce.

"Removing these obstacles to participation in work are long overdue and it behoves all of us to ensure access to optimum early-years education for our most vulnerable children.

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