The high cost of childcare is the biggest barrier to women taking up work, according to a new study by the ESRI. 

New research published today by the Economic and Social Research Institute and Pobal, has found that mothers who face high childcare costs work fewer hours.

Women, especially lone parents, face a significant barrier to employment due to the amount of disposable income they would have to spend on childcare.

Irish childcare costs are among the highest in the world — around €622 a month – and some families are spending 20% of their income on care.

The study found that mothers with higher childcare costs at age three tended to work fewer hours when their child was aged five. Between the ages of three and five years almost half of mothers in Ireland (45%) changed their employment hours, including 9 per cent who left employment, and 7 per cent who entered employment.


Ela Hogan, Monitoring, Analysis and Outcomes Unit Lead at Pobal said: “The high costs of childcare has been widely recognised as a significant barrier to female labour market participation in Ireland. This report not only provides a supporting evidence on this, but also points out that this barrier is even more profound for lone parents and low income families.”

Maternal employment could be increased with greater government support, according to the research.

“Policies to address childcare costs are also important from a poverty perspective, as exclusion from the labour market due to childcare costs is associated with poverty risks and household joblessness. Additionally, increased female employment contributes to the sustainability of the welfare state through increased tax receipts,” the report said.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone said more must be done by the Government in supported childcare schemes.

Minister Zappone added: “From the outset I have been clear that we are correcting decades of under-investment and this will take a number of budgets. In addition to measures which I hope to secure in Budget 2019, my officials have also been putting in place the legal, administrative and IT infrastructure so that the new Affordable Childcare Scheme will become a reality in the coming year and benefit children, parents and providers for generations to come.”