On Tuesday 15th November, hundreds of early childcare professionals stood on Molesworth Street protesting the lack of funding provided to their sector by the government in recent years.
The demonstration, which was organised by the Association of Childhood Professionals (ACP), is just the latest in a series of demonstrations held by the organisation so as to highlight the extremely low amounts of money in their industry.
The Association of Childhood Professionals said there are around 25,000 people in the sector on an average pay rate of less than €11 an hour.
Many people working as childcare providers have studied childcare in third level and hold degrees of varying levels. However, many of these graduates will remain working for the minimum wage for the majority of their career, meaning it would take them almost 19 years to earn back the cost of their education.
Marian Quinn, chairperson of the Association of Childhood Professionals said that a lot of these recent graduates are leaving the profession after just a few years.
“More and more we see people who stay for maybe three or four years and then they think ‘woah I can’t afford this, especially when they plan to have a family of their own and who can’t afford a mortgage and they then get a second job and then realise that second job pays more and so they leave the early years profession.”
Many employers say that they would love to pay their staff a living wage, however, they simply cannot afford to after the costs of rent and insurance. They say that there is a huge need for more government investment in the sector so as to be able to hold onto their staff and stop them from leaving the profession.
Many students studying early childhood education use their degree as a stepping stone into primary teaching or leave the country so as to find better employment opportunities once they graduate.
Speaking at the demonstration, Marian Quinn said that they are being treated like “glorified babysitters”.
“Absolutely [they are undervalued], whether you are working in childcare in the home or in the service it is more than a case of just babysitting, like we’re just a glorified babysitter, but actually, a babysitter would get paid more.
“When we look at what is happening for those young children, and we know when talking to the primary schools that that early start, that early childhood education that the children get and the professionals who provide that to them, that makes such a huge difference.
“There’s a lot of talk now about prevention and early intervention and to be honest what we do in those very early years is the best form of early intervention.”