I propose to take Questions Nos. 1720 to 1723, inclusive, together.
The most recent data available on rates of pay for staff working in early learning and care services dates from mid-2018 and is drawn from Pobal's Early Years Sector Profile for 2017/18. According to this report, at that time the average rate of pay for staff working directly with children was €12.17 per hour. Those with relevant third-level degrees had wages higher than the average. The average rates of pay for graduates at that time were €13.56 for those with qualifications at Level 7 on the National Framework of Qualifications, €13.09 for those with Level 8 qualifications, and €14.59 for those with qualifications at Levels 9 or 10.
At the time that survey was carried out, the so-called "living wage" (as determined by the Living Wage Technical Group, led by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice) was €11.90 per hour. At that time, data from Pobal indicated that 55% of staff earned less than the "living wage". It would not be appropriate to compare wages in mid-2018 with the "living wage" determined for 2019 by the Living Wage Technical Group, as wages may have risen since mid-2018. Data from the 2019 survey of early learning and care providers is currently being analysed by Pobal and will be available in the coming months. At that point it will be possible to estimate the proportion of staff who today earn less than the 2019 "living wage" of €12.30 per hour.
I have no data available to me on the number of workers in early learning and care services that receive unemployment benefit or allowance during the summer months or the number of such workers in receipt of the working family payment.
As the State is not the employer, my Department does not pay the wages of staff working in early learning and care settings, and I cannot therefore determine wages or working conditions in the sector. I am, however, doing all that is in my power to improve wages and working conditions. I have repeatedly called for the sector to pursue a Sectoral Employment Order, which offers a viable mechanism to establish appropriate wage levels. My Department will readily co-operate with such a process when it is under way.
In the interim, I have introduced a range of measures to support employers to improve pay and conditions. These include a 7% increase in ECCE capitation in 2018; higher capitation payments for graduates and Inclusion Coordinators; annual Programme Support Payments to recognise administrative demands; support for school-age childcare, which will make it easier for service providers to offer staff full-time employment contracts; and a pilot measure to fund participation in CPD. In addition, work has commenced on the development of a Workforce Development Plan, which will identify practical steps to achieve First 5 commitments relating to the workforce, including moving to a graduate-led workforce by 2028.