Is Ireland really the most expensive for day-care?

Is Ireland the most expensive place for child-care in the developed world? According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Day-care(OECD), the answer is yes.

Taking a two-income couple with two young children in day-care as its mark, it finds that we are indeed the most expensive country, that such a couple will pay a whopping 45 percent of their net income towards day-care. In Poland the equivalent figure is only 5 percent.

But taken at face value, the report is also a little misleading because the vast majority of young children are not in full-time, paid child-care and therefore comparatively few couples are faced with the sort of scenario set out by the OECD.

Last year the Central Statistics Office (CSO) issued a report that revealed the truth about child-care in this country and what it found is that only one in ten children of primary school age have paid child-care at all, and most of these are not in day-care centres, but instead are looked after by an au pair or nanny, or by a paid relative, probably granny.

Even those parents who have to pay for child-care pay an average of €144 per week, far less than the €800-€1000 often cited in newspaper reports.

What about pre-school age children? Only one-in-five of these are looked after outside the home each day and for an average of 21 hours per week. Many of these are in Montessori schools or playgroups, which conform to no-one’s stereotype of ‘day-care’, and in some of these cases, the mother will not be working. She will place she children in a Montessori school for the sake of their socialisation.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of small children are looked after by one or other parent during the day, and most of the rest are not in a day-care centre.

The reason day-care costs in countries like Poland are so low is almost certainly because they are very heavily subsidised by the tax-payer, so someone is paying for them. This seems particularly unfair on those couples who strive to keep one parent at home for the sake of the children since they are subsidising those couples who both work.

By the way, if you’re reading that CSO report you need to burrow down a bit to get the full picture regarding the child-care in this country because what it highlights on page one isn’t the full picture.