Affordable childcare is an important policy tool to maximize an economy’s employment rate and by extension its productive capacity by facilitating the participation of second-earners and lone parents in the labour force.
Prohibitive costs create barriers for labour market participation of second earners and lone-parents who tend to be mostly women. There is also widespread consensus among economists that as well as promoting fairness and social justice, there are real long-run economic returns to investing in pre-primary education, especially if it is affordable for disadvantaged families.
As shown previously in housing (Nugent 2017), there are clear regional disparities in the cost of childcare with prices in Dublin far above the rest. The cost of full-time childcare for one child in Fingal is about 40% of the take home pay of the median employee aged 25-34 and the cost of two children anywhere in Dublin is more than the take home pay of a full-time minimum wage worker. The cost in Leitrim for instance is under 60% of that in Dunleary.