Graduates failed by Early Years system

SIPTU representatives have stated that a ‘Graduate Outcome Survey’ published by the Higher Education Authority today (Monday, 18th February), has revealed the extent of low pay and precarious work facing newly qualified graduates in the Early Years sector.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The extent of poverty pay in the Early Years sector, which is revealed by this survey, is shocking. It found that 43% of honours degree graduates in the sector earn less than €20,000 per year which is well below the Living Wage of €23,000. The survey also reveals that 35% of honours degree graduates are on precarious contracts.

“The low pay and precarious contracts which graduates in the Early Years sector have to endure has led to a staffing crisis. Staff turnover is 25% per year and research consistently shows that this undermines the quality of the service provided to children. High staff turnover is also undermining the sustainability of services which struggle to recruit qualified educators.”

He added: “The stated plan of the Government is to have a graduate led Early Years sector by 2028. However, unless low pay is addressed this important objective will not be achieved. Currently, Early Years educators earn on average just €11.18 per hour, with thousands working 15 hours each week and 38 weeks each year on precarious contracts.

“Ultimately, the Government must step up and adequately invest in the Early Years sector. Ireland remains bottom of the class when it comes to state funding of childcare, leading to low pay for workers and high fees for parents.”

USI President, Síona Cahill, stated “the HEA Graduate Outcome Survey has given solid proof to what we already know, painted over by false positivity that more graduates are employed now than in previous years.”

“The fact is that we have come out of a recession, it is an expectation — not a privilege that a higher percentage of graduates are finally being employed within their own country.”

She added “This survey failed to adequately address that students are coming through third level education with no promise of a decent living wage and that women are being expected to earn an average of €3,983 less than their male co-workers, despite earning the same degree.”

This survey is something we must learn from and strive to improve upon going forward, not celebrate.”

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