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Lower paid essential workers ‘substantially constrained’ over childcare

The report stated that the groups identified are not an exhaustive list of essential employees.

Many essential workers are in lower paid jobs – and the ability to pay for additional childcare services is likely to be “substantially constrained”, a report has found.

The study, which examined the family structure and childcare responsibilities of essential workers, found that many of them have substantial childcare requirements.

Following the closure of school and creches in March, employees have faced significant challenges in trying to balance work and family responsibilities.

The study, carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), stated it is critical that essential workers have adequate childcare provision if Ireland is to respond effectively to the Covid-19 crisis.

The authors of the report said they used Irish Labour Force Survey data to identify essential employees, however they faced some data constraints.

The report stated that the groups identified are not an exhaustive list of essential employees.

  • Health professionals (including doctors and nursing professionals)
  • Health associate professionals (including medical technicians, ambulance workers and community health workers)
  • Other health employees including health workers in hospitals and nursing care facilities
  • Armed Forces
  • Defence and public administration including police officers, prison guards and firefighters
  • Retail sales workers
  • Transport operatives including train, bus, taxi and tram drivers

Essential workers account for 22% of all employees in Ireland.

Retail employees are the largest group of essential workers at 7% of all employees.

Health professionals and health associate professionals combined also account for approximately 7% of employees.

Other health employees account for 5%, and transport workers 1.5% of all employees.

Armed Forces and defence and public administration employees make up just over 1% of all employees.

The study found that the majority of essential employees are female – and just over half of all essential employees have children.

Some 4% are part of a couple with children, while 9% are lone parents.

It found that the rate of lone parenthood is higher among essential employees compared to other employees.

The report said this is primarily driven by a high rate of lone parent employees in the other health employee group, at 14%.

Of those essential workers with children, approximately two-thirds have a youngest child aged 14 or below.

Of all essential employees who have children and live with a partner, approximately 80% have a partner that also works.

The study found that approximately 20% have a partner who is also an essential employee.

However, this statistic is much higher for defence (32%) and armed forces (26%) employees.

Many essential workers are concentrated in lower paid occupations, such as retail and other health employees.

The authors of the report said that the capacity of many employees to pay for additional childcare services is likely to be substantially constrained.

Unlike other countries, such as the UK, there has not yet been direct government provision for the childcare needs of essential employees.

Dr Paul Redmond, who helped author the report, said: “The research demonstrates that essential employees in Ireland have substantial childcare responsibilities and many are likely to face significant barriers to accessing effective services.

“The continued ability of essential employees to carry out their duties is a critical aspect of Ireland’s ability to combat the Covid-19 crisis.

“The evidence suggests that policies should be quickly developed to ensure that the childcare needs of effective workers in Ireland are met.”