SIPTU representatives have today published the results of a survey of educators and managers in Early Years services which indicates that low rates of pay for workers is the main driving force behind a worsening staffing crisis.

Speaking at the launch of the SIPTU Early Years Professionals Survey 2024 at a briefing in Leinster House, Dublin, SIPTU Head of Strategic Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The Early Years Professionals Survey shows, staff recruitment and retention is having a major impact on the ability of services to meet the needs of parents and children. Staff shortages are increasing the workload on existing staff, leading to increased stress and burnout. Recruitment challenges are also crippling the sector, leaving many services unable to meet the increased demands in communities across the country.”

He added: “This has resulted in a staff turnover rate of 25% per year. Not only does this undermine quality for children, but it is also threatening the future viability of services that simply cannot recruit or retain staff. Early Years educators and managers are caught in a vicious cycle of low pay, a staffing crisis and increased stress and burnout. It must be addressed once and for all.”

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Diane Jackson, said: “The findings of this year’s Early Years Professionals Survey are very stark. Unsurprisingly, low pay has been found to be the biggest cause of the staffing crisis in the sector. More than 86% identified low pay as their biggest work issue. The next two biggest issues were ‘pressure due to staff shortages’, at 68%, and ‘stress and burnout’ at 65%. The consequences of low pay have a material impact on staff, with 95% of Early Years educators only able to ‘make ends meet’ with ‘difficulty’ or ‘great difficulty’. 

“In all grades of staff, including managers, 78% said they were unable to cope with an unexpected expense, such as replacing a washing machine. For many Early Years professionals, the joy of working with children is overshadowed by financial struggles. Their wages barely cover basic needs, leaving them feeling undervalued and burnt out.”

She added: “The resulting staff shortages have become a chronic problem. Qualified professionals are leaving the sector in droves, seeking better pay and working conditions elsewhere. This revolving door creates instability, making it difficult to maintain quality care for children and to deliver the services needed by parents.”

SIPTU, the Early Years Union, represents educators and managers working in both childcare and afterschool settings in communities across the country.