Employment and access to childcare during the Covid-19 crisis

The roadmap proposals for how to ease out of lockdown put forward by the Republic of Ireland Government and the Northern Ireland Executive appear to have given no thought to the challenges presented by the misalignment between businesses reopening and access to childcare. This weeks blog summarises findings from newly published research which looks at how a lack of access to childcare is likely to affect the workforce.


As businesses begin to reopen and workers are called back to work - picking up and going back to work is not going to be as easy or straightforward as it sounds on paper for workers with children. Little consideration however appears to have been given by Government to the misalignment between the reopening of many sectors of our economy whilst access to childcare remains so limited.  

A newly published Research InBrief shows that a lack of access to childcare is likely to be a significant issue for a significant proportion of workers across the island of Ireland. Around 40% of workers in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland have dependent children. High proportions of workers with dependent children also work in households where all adults in the household work. The challenges presented by the fact that access to childcare is currently so limited given the continuing closure of childcare facilities and public health restrictions which prevent physical interaction with the wider family circle is likely to be particularly intensive for these households.

It is argued within the paper that without Government intervention a lack of access to childcare will affect the ability of workers with dependent children to participate in the labour market, although it is expected that female workers are likely to be disproportionately negatively affected in this regard.  
Furthermore, the evidence presented shows that almost half of families with dependent children in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland rely on their wider family circle to assist with childcare. This shows that the issue of a lack of access to childcare is unlikely to be solved through a reopening of childcare facilities and schools alone.  

You can access the full Research InBrief here: https://www.nerinstitute.net/research/employment-and-access-childcare-during-covid-19-crisis

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Dr Lisa Wilson

Lisa Wilson is a Senior Economist at the Nevin Economic Research Institute and is based in the Belfast office. Her main research interests lie in the areas of labour markets, income distribution, poverty, public expenditure, living standards and well-being. 

Since taking up her position in the NERI Lisa has been among other things carrying out work concerned with job quality and its economic and social importance, the future of work, the gendered nature of employment, and housing and its impact for living standards in Northern Ireland.

Lisa is a native of Donegal, and a graduate of Ulster University and Queens University, Belfast. Lisa completed her PhD in Queen’s University, Belfast focusing on income inequality and well-being.

Contact: [email protected] or 00 44 28 9024 6214.