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Lack of affordable childcare remains single biggest barrier to women’s equal participation

Published: Monday, June 20, 2022

At the National Economic Dialogue, the National Women’s Council today (Monday, 20th June 2022) called on the Government to tackle the cost of living crisis for women through investment in public services and income supports in Budget 2023. As a priority, NWC called for the delivery of a universal public childcare model, investment in tackling violence against women and increased core social welfare rates.  

Impact of cost of living crisis on women

The current high levels of inflation and cost of living crisis are not impacting all equally. Women continue to have fewer resources, less wealth, lower incomes, greater unpaid care responsibilities which limits their choices around paid work and greater reliance on low paid and precarious work. These inequalities in particular affect lone parents, the vast majority of whom are women, and marginalised women, including Traveller women, migrant women and disabled women

Budget 2023 must tackle rising costs for low income households through social welfare increases, targeted supports to those most at risk of poverty and increases to the minimum wage. In addition, it must invest in universal, public services such as care, health and housing to reduce the impact of high, out of pocket costs and create resilient and sustainable societies capable of weathering future shocks. in

Investment in childcare and public services

Jennifer McCarthy Flynn, Head of Policy, National Women’s Council said,

“Lack of affordable, accessible, quality childcare remains the single biggest barrier to women’s equal participation in employment and public life. Ireland’s current ‘market’ approach to early years care and education has clearly failed to deliver for women and families. It has resulted in virtually no public childcare provision, which is particularly affecting women in marginalised communities and high fees continue to place an incredible financial burden on families.

NWC calls on the Government to follow best international practice and deliver a universal public childcare model that guarantees access to affordable, quality childcare for parents and better pay and working conditions for early years educators.

Moving to this model and the recommended 1 % of national income investment in early years should start with a minimum of €250 million in Budget 2023 focused on affordability measures for low income families but also building on work currently being done to deliver better pay and working conditions for the early years workforce.”

Tackling the cost of violence to women

Jennifer McCarthy Flynn continued,

“Violence against women goes to the heart of women’s equality in our society. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic and/or sexual violence in Ireland.

The European Institute of Gender equality (EIGE) has estimated that the cost of gender-based violence for Ireland is €4 billion per year. This cost includes the physical and emotional impact on the victims leading to a reduction in the quality of life, a variety of costs associated with lost employment and the costs of public services and specialist services. 

NWC calls on the Government to build on the increased funding for tackling violence against women during the Covid-19 pandemic and fully fund the implementation of the forthcoming Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence. This must include increased funding to deliver the much-needed accommodation plan and refuge spaces.”

End poverty

Sandra McCullagh, NWC’s Women’s Economic Equality Coordinator said,

“While Budget 2022 increased core social welfare payments, the increase was not sufficient to protect low-income households against the increasing cost of living. The social protection system is one of many public services that we all rely on at different points in our lives. However, there are gaps that mean many women, including those who are not able to work or only work very limited hours due to care responsibilities’, ill health, disability or other reasons are being pushed into poverty. Government must take decisive action to protect people from poverty and to ensure a decent income for all. NWC is calling on the Government to increase core social welfare payments, by €20 to address the rising costs of living and to deliver targeted supports for those most at risk, such as lone parents.”

NWC has developed a list of 10 priority asks for women in Budget 2023:

1. Access to universal public childcare

Deliver a universal, public childcare model starting with an additional investment of €250m in 2023 to address affordability for low-income families and workforce pay.  

2. Tackle the cost of violence to women

Fully fund the implementation of the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, including the accommodation plan and refuge spaces.

3. End poverty

Increase core social welfare rates by €20 to address the impact of inflation and ensure progress towards a Minimum Essential Standard of Living.

4. Ensure income doesn’t impact contraceptive choice and bodily autonomy

Extend universal, free contraception so women have real contraceptive choice and access to the most effective forms, targeting women from 26-35 in 2023. Additional investment: €45m

5. Address lone parent poverty

Establish a Statutory Child Maintenance service to ensure adequate and stable income for lone parents. New minimum investment: €2m.

6. Support marginalised women’s voices and organisations

Support the participation of marginalised communities/women across the island through increased funding to women’s civil society organisations.

7. Access to housing and accommodation

Invest in a major State-led housing programme for provision of public, affordable and cost rental homes and accommodation to mitigate against the high cost of housing on lone parents and low-income families. Double investment to €3bn.

8. Tackle rising energy costs and climate change

Provide deep retrofits for low income families and invest in urban and rural public transport.

9. Protect low income workers

Increase the Minimum Wage by €1 per hour to protect low-income workers against the rising cost of living.

10. Support all families to work and care 

Support low-income workers to care by increasing Maternity, Paternity and Parent’s Leave payments to €280p.w. to bring more in line with EU norms. Additional investment: €40.7m

NWC’s detailed Pre-Budget Submission 2023 will be available in the coming weeks on www.nwci.ie


For more information, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, NWC, Tel. 085 858 9104.