Early Childhood Ireland Barometer shows strong public support for Government investment and better employment conditions in childcare sector
Almost three-quarters of adults in Ireland believe the Government must ensure childcare providers have enough funding to operate under Covid-19 restrictions. That’s according to the Childcare Barometer 2021, published by Early Childhood Ireland, the leading organisation in the early years sector.
The Childcare Barometer is an annual survey assessing public attitudes to childcare. In this year’s Barometer, 73% of adults agree with the statement that: “The Government has a significant responsibility when it comes to making sure childcare settings have sufficient funding to operate under Covid-19 restrictions”.
An equal proportion (73%) believe the terms and conditions of employment for childcare staff should better reflect their qualifications. This represents a steep rise in support for better terms and conditions for staff – the equivalent figure in the 2020 Barometer was 65%.
Essential Sector and Essential Workers
Launching the Barometer, Frances Byrne, Director of Policy at Early Childhood Ireland, said: “In the 12 months since our last Barometer, the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded. One thing the pandemic clearly illustrated is that the childcare sector is essential; and staff are essential workers. If our early years and school-age care system cannot function properly, there are major knock-on impacts for workers in every other economic sector.
“The pandemic has heightened awareness among the public of how important qualified early years educators are – and of the fact that they deserve employment terms in line with those of other professionals, such as nurses and teachers. This sentiment is reflected strongly in the 2021 Barometer, with a sharp rise in the numbers seeking better terms and conditions for childcare staff.
“The Barometer results also underline the importance of continued Government support for our sector. Childcare providers nationwide have been reliant on the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme over the past year. The pandemic really showed the vulnerabilities in the sector, and the precarious funding position many of our members are in.
“It was right and necessary for the Government to step in with the subsidy scheme and other supports to ensure childcare services remained open during this difficult period. But the reality is that services need better funding on a long-term basis. We’ve seen that it’s possible for these vital services to be significantly subsidised by the Government during a time of crisis; now, we want to see this become the norm in Irish life.”
Early Childhood Ireland’s 2021 Barometer shows 62% of adults agree with the statement “the education of children under five is as important as the education of children over five”, while 61% believe that – similar to primary education – childcare should be available free to all children. Meanwhile, 55% of adults believe the Government should pay the wages of childcare staff, as is the case with school-teachers.
Other key findings from the Barometer include:
- 60% of adults believe parents should only pay toward childcare in line with their overall income.
- 58% believe parents should be financially supported to stay at home with their child for the first 12 months of the child’s life. There was a notable gender divide in responses to this statement, with 65% of women in agreement, compared to only 52% of men.
- Only 30% of adults believe childcare settings should be open for all children during periods of Level 5 restrictions (as opposed to just catering for children of essential workers and vulnerable children). On this issue, there was mixed responses amongst different demographics, with parents and those working full-time showing the highest levels of support for a wider reopening of the childcare sector.
The research for Early Childhood Ireland’s 2021 Barometer was conducted in January 2021, using RED C’s online omnibus survey, RED Express. 1,029 adults aged 18+ were interviewed online for the survey. The sample size was quota-controlled by age, gender, socio-economic status and region in order to ensure a fully representative sample. Full details of the Barometer are available at www.earlychildhoodireland.ie.