Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has urged the government to urgently increase its subsidisation of childcare, noting that prohibitive costs are preventing women from entering or remaining in the workforce, and contributing to the high rate of poverty across the state.
Mr Carthy, EU candidate for the Midlands North West, said: “One of the biggest issues I have come across canvassing my constituency is the exorbitant cost of childcare, now the highest in the EU. A report from Pobal found last year that the average childcare costs €697 per month, but this rises to more than €1,000 per month in Dublin.
“With enormous childcare costs like these, it is little wonder that we have one of the worst rates for workplace participation for women in the EU, with an inactivity rate due to caring responsibilities at around 15 per cent – second only to Malta. “Lowering the cost of childcare is not just a demand of anti-poverty and women’s rights organisations; it is a central demand of business associations who want to see more women enter the workforce.”
“Last month a report by St Vincent de Paul found that the employment rate of lone parents in Ireland was the lowest in 15 EU countries, at 58%, and high childcare costs were a major reason for this. The living standards of lone parents in Ireland were ‘among the worst in Europe’ and these families are not being protected from the adverse effects of poverty, and that 30 per cent of lone parents in Ireland were having great difficulties making ends meet, compared to an EU average of 19 per cent.
“These conditions are intolerable. Government policy is condemning women and men who may want to work to stay at home, or to work in casual, precarious jobs. It is condemning a generation of children and lone-parent families to biting poverty.
“The failure by the government to address this issue, and the chronic underinvestment in childcare services over many years, show that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil don’t care about women, children or families.
“In our most recent budget proposal, Sinn Féin pledged – as a starting point – to have the cost of childcare immediately by increasing the subsidy for the Affordable Childcare Scheme from 50 cents to €2.50 per hour. This would cost only €42 million – a drop in the ocean when you consider government mis-spending fiascos on broadband and the National Children’s Hospital.
“Wherever we are active – in the institutions and in communities – Sinn Féin will fight for better, affordable childcare provision; for quality jobs and housing; and for an end to the shame of child poverty,” he added.