The annual SIPTU Early Years Professionals’ survey has found that 43% of child care workers are actively seeking another job due to low pay levels in the sector.
The findings also show that 90% of workers struggle to make ends meet, 77% have no work sick pay scheme and just 10% receive paid maternity leave from their employer. Of the 26,882 staff who work directly with children, 98% are female.
The survey was completed in late 2020 by Dr Amy Greer Murphy, a social scientist who uses qualitative research to understand inequality and the impact of public policy on social and health outcomes.
“This research shows that the Early Years sector is facing a crisis due to Covid-19, with 74% of workers finding their work stressful in these difficult times,” Dr Greer Murphy said. “However, many of the issues workers experience - such as low pay and insecure contracts - are not new. With 93% of respondents stating they will leave the sector within 5 years if conditions don't improve, this research clearly indicates that these professionals need better pay, job security and to be valued more by government and society.”
The survey found that 98% of Early Years educators have not felt they are valued by government as frontline workers during the Covid-19 crisis, and only 10% have received a bonus or additional pay from their employer during the pandemic.
However, the survey shows widespread support for a public funding model with 97% agreeing that ‘wages should be funded by the Government, as it does for primary and secondary school teachers’. SIPTU says this would allow for a dramatic reduction in fees for parents.
“I hold a Level 8 degree and I have dedicated the last 13 years to working in Early Years yet I have received just one pay rise during that time," said Early Years Educator, Eilish Balfe.
"How can we attract school leavers into a sector that is known for poverty pay and conditions? Our sector is near collapse due to the exodus of qualified professionals in search of better pay and conditions. The pandemic has shone a light on our sector which shows that we need to be recognised and valued as essential frontline workers.”
SIPTU Head of Strategic Organising Darragh O'Connor said: “Only 42% of professionals earn the Living Wage of €12.30 and 38% are actively looking to leave their profession. Even before the pandemic, there was a staffing crisis but we are now on the verge of losing huge numbers of educators unless pay and conditions are addressed.”
“The Government, workers and employers all have a role to play in ending poverty pay. The establishment of a Joint Labour Committee, which can set out standards in wages and conditions of employment across the sector and was promised in the Programme for Government, is the first step in that process.”