Congress Survey Confirms Childcare is 'A Second Mortgage' For 2 in 3 Working Families

In the same week as Ireland’s first ever legislation on childcare costs is set to become law, a new survey from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions confirms that childcare is one of the top two out-of-pocket costs for over two-thirds (71 per cent) of working families with young children.

The national opinion poll of 1,000 trade union members on early-years childcare costs was conducted online between 10 and 23 June.

The survey was carried out by Congress ahead of the July 05 Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) discussions between Government, union and employer representatives on childcare.

“This survey focused on the impact of government underinvestment in early-years education and childcare for working families, to allow us take a detailed look at the implications of what many parents describe as ‘a second mortgage’” said Congress Social Policy Officer, Dr Laura Bambrick.

Commenting on the survey findings Congress General Secretary, Patricia King said: “Our findings on high childcare costs and the number of families struggling to cover them will surprise few working parents”.

“Congress recognises the significance of the Oireachtas passing the Childcare Support Bill earlier this week, which for the first time provides a legal entitlement to financial support to all parents with young children who use registered childcare services”.

“This legislation provides a vehicle for addressing childcare affordability for families. Removing this employment barrier for mothers who want to return to work will increase the skills level and size of the workforce. This is vital for sustaining spending on public services and payments, such as the old age pension, into the future”.

“However, while encouraging, this support to parents will do nothing to help professionalise the early-years education and care sector with pay and conditions that make the workforce feel valued and attract and retain qualified professionals. This other side of the childcare coin needs urgent action”.

Ms King said, “Congress will use the upcoming social dialogue with ministers and employers to continue to put pressure on Government to ensure access to affordable quality childcare for families and improved pay and conditions for workers in the sector”.

Key Headline Findings

Childcare is one of the top two out-of-pocket costs for over two-thirds (71%) of all working families with a pre-school child.

Early-years childcare is the biggest cost for one-third (32%) of all working parents.

For the other one-third (39%) the amount spent out of their family budget on childcare is second only to the amount they spend on mortgage or rent.

For half (52%) of families with two or more children in childcare these costs are their biggest expense each month.

For another one-third (34%) of such families, childcare costs are the second biggest bill they face after mortgage or rent.

Three in five (61%) working families are struggling to cover their childcare costs. These families have had to borrow or go without an essential item, such as food and heating, in order to pay for childcare in the past year.

Over half (56%) of working families have worked fewer hours in the last year because childcare costs are too expense to make it affordable to work full-time or overtime.