Early Childhood Ireland has called for early years practitioners to be given the same treatment as professionals working across the wider care and education sectors.
The call was made at the launch of a new research report on pay and working conditions in the early years sector.
The report examines how best to professionalise the early years sector, and improve terms and conditions for the workforce.
It compares pay and conditions for early years care and education workers with those for workers in a range of other sectors, including healthcare support assistants, special needs assistants, social care workers, physical therapists, teachers, and nurses.
Commenting today, Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, said the research shows the key factors that need to be taken into account to professionalise and adequately resource the early years sector.
“Early Childhood Ireland has always recognised the important contribution of the thousands of staff who work in the sector, delivering quality care and education to babies and children nationwide,” she said.
“The backdrop to their vital work, however, is one of low rates of pay and the absence of a clearly defined career path.
“Over the past decade, the Government has given significant attention to professionalising the early years workforce.”
Teresa Heeney said that for the most part, they have been concerned with increasing the qualifications profile of early years workers.
“And this has been successful,” she said, “in that there has been substantial upskilling of the workforce.
“However, this upskilling has not been met with the increased investment needed to ensure highly qualified professionals receive appropriate pay and secure working conditions.
“The reality is that the early years workforce remains in a policy limbo. On the one hand, employers in the sector have the legal authority but not the financial capacity to improve pay and conditions and, on the other hand, the State has the financial capacity but not the legal authority of an employer.
“This has led to an unsustainable policy ‘merry-go-round’ with no winners.”
Early Childhood Ireland is calling on the Government to increase investment in the early years sector to address the issues highlighted by the research.
The new report, ‘Pathways to Better Prospects: Delivering Proper Terms and Conditions for the Early Years Workforce in Ireland’ was produced by the Department of Work and Employment Studies at the University of Limerick.
The research received funding from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, also looks at international models of good practice for professionalising the early years workforce, with comparisons made between Ireland and Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Germany, Finland, Denmark and Norway.
Full report available HERE.