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Mary Lou McDonald - Government has a duty to act on childcare crisis

20 September, 2006

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP has this morning said that it is "shocking" that many women are being forced to give up their jobs due to the spiralling costs of childcare in the state.

Ms McDonald made her comments after a report released by the OECD concluded that childcare costs have spiralled out of control and accounts for approximately 30% of household income.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Many people will be shocked by these latest findings regarding childcare costs across the 26 counties. Report after report indicates that these costs are spiralling out of control and many families are struggling with childcare costs which are regarded by many as the equivalent of a second mortgage.

"What will shock most is that many women are being forced out of employment and this can only further serve to reinforce the gender inequality gap within the workforce which is manifested in unequal pay with their male counterparts, a greater likelihood of being unemployed and become more likely to fall into the poverty trap.

"This government must bear responsibility for the crisis in the childcare sector. This crisis has not just emerged overnight; costs have been steadily spiralling for a number of years now. One of the most disturbing aspects in all of this, is as far back as April 2004, studies were showing enormous disparities between Ireland and the rest of the European Union. State subsidisation of childcare is pitiful and this Government has some serious questions to answer.

"In addition, the Irish Government signed up to 'the Barcelona Targets' on childcare provision and is also lagging behind other member states in this regard. Not only is the government failing to meet agreed targets, it is also failing families throughout the state who cannot cope with the burden of debt brought on by spiraling childcare costs.

"Sinn Féin believes that alongside a range of income support measures for children, a comprehensive package of childcare measures must be introduced to ensure that all children are given the finest care possible." ENDS

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