Childcare workers caught in low pay cycle

Low pay for employees in the early years profession is being caused by current regulations that limit the number of children each staff member can look after, according to a government report.

More great childcare: raising quality and giving parents more choice by the Deprartment for Education aims to help parents back to work, and build a stronger and more professional early years’ workforce.

The national mandatory minimum staff to child ratio in the UK for children aged under five is 1:3. However, in France, the ratio is 1:4, and in Denmark, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, it is 1:5. In Sweden, there is no mandatory minimum ratio.

According to the report, the staff to child ratio means that daycare centres and nurseries employ staff in numbers that force a choice between paying low wages and charging parents excessively high fees.

The report also found that the early years profession has been in a cycle of low pay since the 1970s and childcare staff in other European countries are often significantly better paid. Average annual salaries for early years staff in the UK were between £13,300 and £16,850 in 2012. In Denmark, the average salaries were between £20,350 and £32,800, while in the Netherlands they were between £22,100 and £34,400.

Elizabeth Truss, parliamentary under secretary of state for education and childcare, said: “The affordability and availability of childcare are growing concerns to many working parents, and some childcare providers are struggling in these tough economic times.

“The government is determined to ensure that the system delivers high quality at good value for children, parents and the tax-payer.”

The government will consult on more flexible rules for nurseries and childminders. It will respond to the consultation in the spring with a view to changes being introduced from September 2013.