SIPTU representatives have said that figures released by the Department of Further and Higher Education categorically confirm that the staffing crisis in childcare in not driven by a lack of qualified educators in Ireland but low pay in the sector forcing them to leave their chosen profession. In response to a Parliamentary Question from Social Democrats TD, Jennifer Whitmore, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science revealed that over 67,000 childcare qualifications where obtained between 2010 to 2020 in Ireland. SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The staffing crisis in Early Years is driven by low pay, not a lack of qualified Early Years educators. Currently, Early Years educators earn on average just €11.91 per hour, which is 99 cent below the Living Wage of €12.90. It is clear that thousands of people who qualify each year simply cannot afford to work in their profession.  “According to the Annual Early Years Sector Profile Report 2019 / 2020, published by the state funding agency, POBAL,  just over 26,000 staff work directly with children and require a qualification. With approximately 6,000 people achieving a qualification each year there is no shortage of suitable staff to work in facilities.”  He added: “The only way to address the staffing crisis in the childcare sector is to increase pay. It’s that simple. Early Years providers have the opportunity to agree to do just that at upcoming pay talks at the Early Years Joint Labour Committee. In order to ensure the best start in life for our children we need a new deal for Early Years educators.”