Childcare costs forcing mothers out of workforce

Ireland is suffering a “brain drain” as thousands of mothers leave the workforce every year due to the excessive costs associated with childcare, according to new research.

Childcare costs forcing mothers out of workforce

The study has suggested that more than 3,000 new mothers leave the workforce annually, costing Irish companies an estimated €68m in recruitment and training costs.

Entitled the ‘Baby Brain Drain’ study, it also suggests that 33,500 mothers plan to return to work on a full-time basis out of financial necessity, while 8,200 mothers returning to work are seeking a new job with more flexible hours.

The study was conducted by iReach Insights, working on behalf of software firm Citrix in partnership with Irish parenting and pregnancy website eumom.

Olive Fogarty, director of eumom, said of the findings: “Childcare costs are at the forefront of the minds of Irish parents. It is one of the most talked about, and searched for, topics amongst the women in our community. Offering tax breaks for childcare is the best way to encourage working women to remain in the workforce.”

Employers’ group Ibec said the cost of childcare and access for mothers to the workforce was “a very live issue” and demanded government consideration.

Ibec’s head of industrial relations and human resources, Maeve McElwee, said: “From a wider point of view there is a requirement for Government to look at childcare policies and what we can put in place, and better opportunities for people to remain in the workforce.”

However, she said increasingly women were returning to the workforce and that childcare was not just an issue for mothers, but for parents in general.

She said employers already bear “a considerable cost” regarding leave requirements but these were typically factored into a company’s budget.

As for suggestions that Ireland follow other models such as that in Sweden, Ms McElwee said it was extremely costly and supported by high tax rates. She said: “A one-size fits all process is not going to be conducive to business.”

Ms McElwee added that after-school childcare was also an issue and that it was the birth of a second and third child when costs of childcare became “seriously prohibitive”.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said she was anxious to look at different options regarding childcare and that there were “a number of proposals under active discussion”.

She said the Government was already looking at measures such as two weeks paid paternity leave, possible changes to parental leave and the introduction of a second free pre-school year.

Ms Burton said she expected that policy would be included in any future Labour Party programme for government but that it was “obviously costly” and she could not put a date on its likely implementation.

“I do recognise that for a lot of families, childcare is a very significant issue,” she said.

Some 864 women who were either pregnant or the parent of a child one year old or less were surveyed for the study, which also made projections based on information from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on childbirths and the number of people leaving the workforce.

Jacqueline de Rojas, area vice-president, Northern Europe, Citrix said: “There is a huge pool of female talent being lost every year because of the high costs of childcare in Ireland. This is a critical issue for the economy as evidenced by the estimated €68m being spent by firms replacing women who would have liked to remain working. Furthermore, over 8,000 new mothers will change jobs because of the lack of flexibility afforded to them by their current employer.”

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