SIPTU has stated that new figures obtained by the union clearly indicate that the staffing crisis in the childcare sector is not driven by a lack of qualified educators in Ireland but low pay forcing many to leave their chosen profession. SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “Figures released by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD, Mairéad Farrell, reveal that over 52,000 childcare qualifications were obtained between 2011 to 2021 in Ireland.  “Despite the large numbers of people obtaining QQI Levels 5 to 9 qualifications, which are legally required to work in the childcare sector, we still have a situation that services are in crisis due to a lack of staff. It is clear that many suitably qualified people are not continuing in the sector due to low pay forcing them to seek other employment.” He added: “Last September, a historic first pay deal was agreed which saw pay increases for 73% of the childcare workforce. However, the cost of living crisis is hitting Early Years educators hard. An entry level ‘Early Years Educator’ earns a minimum rate of  €13.00 per hour, 85 cent below the Living Wage of €13.85. It is clear that this is resulting in thousands of people who qualify each year simply being unable to afford to work in their profession.” Early Years Educator and SIPTU Early Years National Committee Chairperson, Avril Green, said: “We are passionate about our profession and the children we educate and care for, but passion doesn’t pay the bills. Educators are struggling to pay rent, put food on the table and petrol in the car to get to work.”   She added: “We are calling on the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O'Gorman, to continue to increase investment in the sector to improve pay and for employers to value our dedication and professionalism at the next round of pay talks. This is how we will solve the staffing crisis in our sector.”