Minister Katherine Zappone today launched the Early Years Sector Profile Report 2017/2018, developed and published by Pobal for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA). The comprehensive findings are based on the largest ever survey of the early years sector, with responses from a total of 3,928 childcare services (88% of childcare facilities) providing significant insight into current childcare numbers, fees, staff qualifications and wages.Overall, there are estimated to be 202,600 children attending early years services nationwide (an increase of 9%). While the total capacity within the sector has grown by approximately 6%, this has not kept pace with increased demand, with the total number of vacant childcare places reducing by 31%.

Nationally, the cost of a full-time childcare place has increased by just below €4 (to €177.92), compared to a €7 increase last year. Over the last 12 months, fee increases have been more prevalent in community based services and in those located in rural areas. Despite this increase, fees remain more expensive in affluent areas, in cities, and in private facilities.

Currently, the childcare sector employs over 29,500 staff, almost 26,000 of whom work with children. The average qualification level of childcare staff has increased, with 65% to Level 6 (up 2%).  The 2017/2018 report also revealed 47% of all staff work part-time, 3% less than last year. On average, staff working with children earn €12.17 per hour; almost half of these are early year’s assistants, earning an average of €11.20 per hour. The staff turnover rate in the last 12 months was 24.7%, down slightly from 28% the previous year.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone T.D. formally launched the report and speaking at the event said:

“We are experiencing a period of transformative change in the Early Learning and Care sector in Ireland. Over 200,000 children attended an early learning and care setting last year; an experience that will impact these children positively as they make their way through life. More than 84,000 benefited from the enhanced measures introduced last year.

The new subsidies we introduced last year have stabilised the cost of childcare, which has only grown by 2% this year and the new Affordable Childcare Scheme will launch in late 2019. Investment in childcare has grown 117% over recent budgets and these figures show that this is working.

The number of staff working in the sector has grown by 8% to nearly 30,000 and we welcome the nearly 100 new services delivering our schemes this year; improving access to quality early learning across the country.”

Denis Leamy, Pobal CEO added:

“Once again, the Early Years Sector Profile Report, developed and published by Pobal has revealed important findings, analysis and key insights into the early years sector. The responses received from our colleagues in the early years sector, allow for the formulation of accurate and dependable analysis, highlighting existing opportunities and challenges. Pobal are proud to produce this important publication on an annual basis and we are mindful of the significance of the report and how key findings are used to inform and guide future developments and policy within the sector”.

The detailed report, presents an overview of the early years sector in Ireland for the programme year 2017/2018. Report analysis is based on survey responses received in late April and early May 2018 and supplemented with information available from the national childcare ICT system – ‘Programme Implementation Platform’ (PIP).

Responses also demonstrated that, nine in ten children who are currently attending early years services receive funding from one of the three DCYA funded programmes (ECCE, Community Childcare Subvention (CCS) / Training and Employment Childcare programmes (TEC)). During the programme year, over 185,500 children were supported by programmes, an increase of 24% on the previous year. The report also found, 7% of children attending early years services had additional needs.

The Early Years Sector Profile Report 2017/2018 is available here.