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Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys)

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Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Heather Humphreys)

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Snippet Contents:

The availability of affordable childcare is an important factor in increasing female labour market participation and addressing skills shortages. The National Competitiveness Council reports to the Government on the cost of doing business in Ireland annually, and one of the factors examined is the cost of childcare. In its Costs of Doing Business in Ireland 2018 Report, published on 1st June, the Council notes that gross childcare fees in Ireland are relatively high compared to EU and OECD averages. As a percentage of average wages, gross fees for two children attending full-time care amount to 50 per cent in Ireland compared to the euro area average of 22 per cent. Net Irish childcare costs for couples with two children, earning above the average wage are the third highest in the OECD. For lone parents Ireland is the most expensive OECD location.
My Department is aware that the high cost of childcare represents an obstacle to labour force participation. As we draw closer to full employment it is vital that enterprise has access to a high quality flexible talent pool. Enhancing female participation has the potential to address the growing needs for skills and talent and to deliver significant social and gender equality benefits. To this effect, my Department is leading on one of the initiatives in Action Plan for Jobs 2018 which aims to identify relevant policy issues for cohorts with low participation rates based on patterns of labour market participation. Policy responsibility for participation falls across multiple government Departments and my Department will be working with these departments to ensure the completion of this action by the end of this year.
Further to this, the Action Plan for Jobs also includes an action for the development of the Affordable Childcare Scheme. The scheme will replace the existing childcare subsidy schemes with an income-based national scheme providing financial support for parents towards the cost of childcare. Such a new scheme will complement the universal free pre-school programme. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs have responsibility for the continued implementation of reforms to existing schemes and progressing the Affordable Childcare Scheme. The deadline for this action is also the end of this year.