The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for the introduction of new entry-level pay for childcare professionals at the Living Wage rate of €11.50 per hour and for investment in the sector to be brought in line with the 1% of GDP benchmark recommended by UNICEF, from its current level of 0.2%. This follows the publication of a new Congress report on the problems facing the childcare sector in Ireland, highlighting how low wages and poor career progression for childcare professionals has resulted in staff turnover rates of over 22%.  Along with the introduction of the Living Wage and increased public investment, the Congress report also calls for paid parental leave of six months and an increase in employer PRSI to 13.75% on the portion of salaries above €100,000, with the resulting funds ring-fenced for childcare provision. The Congress report – Who Cares: Report on Childcare Costs and Practices – found that the low public investment in Ireland has contributed to childcare costs that are among the highest in the EU. According to the report’s main author, Peter Rigney, “there have been significant policy failures on childcare that have led us to the worst of both worlds: high cost care provided by some of the lowest paid workers. Socially and economically this is unsustainable and will ultimately cost us in the long run.” The report surveyed some 3700 trade union members to gauge the cost of care across a range of income bands and assess the childcare choices being made by working families across the country. The survey found that 29% of respondents utilised family members – especially grandparents – for childcare, while private creches were less popular with lower income families.  It found that amongst those families using private care costs ranged between €1000 and €1499 per month. The report also highlighted Ireland’s poor record in comparison to childcare provision in other EU member states, with Ireland’s spend of 0.2% of GDP among the lowest and nowhere near the UNICEF recommended rate of 1% of GDP, per annum.  According to Rigney: “The introduction of the Living Wage for childcare workers combined with increased public investment will help transform the sector into one that is accessible, affordable and of high quality. At the moment it meets none of those standards. “In addition, we need to see a detailed roadmap on paid parental leave to bring us to the target of six months, which will help alleviate a huge cost burden for working families,” he concluded. The full report is available to download here.