Childcare workers ‘should be at the heart of social mobility policy’

Childcare workers have suffered real pay losses in the last few years, according to a new report.



Childcare practitioners have suffered real terms pay losses of 5% since 2013 and high numbers [44.5%] claim state benefits or tax credits – higher than hairdressers, beauticians, according to a new report from the Education Policy Institute.

The report says childcare workers are often in a position of high financial insecurity with average gross hourly pay standing at £8.20 in 2018 –  £5 less than the average hourly pay of the female working population. Moreover, it says the sector has suffered a pay reduction of nearly 5 per cent in real terms since 2013, compared to an increase of 2.5 per cent for all working women.

The report states that the childcare workforce is less qualified than both the teaching workforce and the general female workforce. In 2018, 25.1 per cent of childcare workers held a degree as their highest qualification level. This compares to 92.8 per cent of teaching workers and 37.1 per cent of all female workers hold a degree or equivalent qualification. Thirty six per cent of childcare workers’ highest qualifications level was to GCE, A-level or another equivalent Level 3 qualification, versus only 1.9 per cent of the teaching workers and 21.1 per cent of working women.

The report says the qualification levels of childcare workers are increasing “very slowly and sometimes erratically” and it warns that qualification levels might be even lower in the future due to the ageing workforce and the fact fewer employees are upskilling. The proportion of childcare workers studying towards a higher qualification, for instance, has fallen from 22.7 per cent in 2008 to 17.2 per cent in 2013 and to 14.9 per cent in 2018.

The report calls for a long-term strategy that places childcare at the centre of social mobility and early years policy. It states: “High quality early years provision can have a positive and lasting impact on children’s socioemotional and cognitive development. The evidence clearly indicates that a skilled and qualified workforce is a key driver of high quality provision.5 Yet this report finds that the skills and sustainability of the workforce are going in the wrong direction. If the government is committed to improving the quality of early years provision, it must provide the well-informed incentives for motivated workers to not only enter, but also remain, in the sector with opportunities to upskill,
better wages and improved financial security.”

The report also highlights that the childcare workforce lacks diversity with just 7.4 per cent being male, with the proportion being lower for nursery nurses and assistants (1.8 per cent), and childminders and those in related occupations (4 per cent). This compares with 26.7 per cent of teaching workers and 13.7 per cent of hairdressers and beauticians are male.

The Fatherhood Institute and researchers at Lancaster University’s Educational Research Department have launched a study to investigate, both internationally and in the UK, how men are recruited, supported and retained in the early years education workforce.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is funding the GenderEYE (Gender Diversification in Early Years Education) project. The aim is to promote strategies for increasing the gender diversity of the profession. The project is described as the first ever attempt in the UK to collate, collect and use research evidence in a systematic way to support gender diversification of the early years education workforce.

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