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November 21, 2012



Michael, that's an excellent idea which in an intellectually and politically healthy society would probably be adopted with little resistance. As set out above there are no drawbacks to the idea and it's positive on all fronts. More of this type of thinking and things might improve. Alas, here in actually existing Ireland it's likely the above idea would be shot out of the sky as soon as it got out in the open. Childcare here is primarily as business, like any other and with the same objective: making money for the business owners. No doubt you're conscious of that. It's likely that any attempt to further state provision in this area - regardless of its benefits to the broader economy - would be regarded by ISME, IBEC not to mention FG as akin to Stalin's collectivisation of agriculture and a ferocious propaganda war would be waged on it. There would be no end of lies flung about that such a plan would be 'unworkable', 'bureaucratic' etc. There would also likely be court challenges at both national and European level by groups who have invested heavily in private sector childcare and would be undercut by this development. Not to mention Catholic groups hawking around the sceptre of 'The State!' being an inappropriate agent of childcare provision. The point I'm making is that any decent, workable, progressive proposal, such as the one above, will have to be fought for with an equal or greater degree of ferocity as that which will be deployed against it. Having said that the above idea makes perfect sense and is an example of how there is scope to improve lives even in times being made deliberately tough for people.

Sounds like a recipe for partially providing a service in a far more expensive form than currently.

There are circa 300k Irish children in the age range 0-4 years, so how would you allocate your 30k places?

On the basis of a lottery? Might as well drop the cash from black helicopters flying overhead on random flight-paths.

Or on the basis of perceived need? This would create yet another welfare trap, further incentivise under-reporting of income, and be grossly unfair to the working families actually paying the tax that would fund state-subsidized childcare for a small minority.

Then in terms of the cost ... at a stroke you've already inflated staff costs by 17%. It wouldn't be long before the staff had all joined SIPTU, rebranded themselves as "early childhood teachers" and demanded the same payscale as INTO members, rising to ~65k. Then of course their holidays and working hours would also need to be lined up with primary teachers, leading to an unworkable 5 hours childcare a day for only 183 days a year. Minus off that in-service training days, personal days & rampant sick leave and barely half the year is covered.

Then of course you'd have every two-horse town down the country campaigning for a state-subsidized creche alongside their 2 teacher primary school with only seven pupils on the rolls. And of course the local clientalist politicians will only be too happy to compete on whether FF or SF or Labour is best at wasting tax-payers money on such on an inefficient venture.

In short, a complete train-wreck!


Yeah, just leaves things as they are with childcare workers being worked to exhaustion for the minimum wage and then let go when the childcare 'business' struggles to get enough 'clients' to remain viable. Adding to the stress of parents who have to work to keep things going, have to find childcare for their kids but find access to childcare financially prohibitive. But, sure, what the hell let's just leave things as they are with a free market free for all where the income streams of childcare 'businesses' are subsidised by the state and where the people who are actually charged with looking after the children are mere disposable implements whose cost [.i.e pay] should be reduced and reduced and reduced. It's probably fair to say that '' (sic.) doesn't have to rely on external childcare. Hopefully if Michael's plan were implemented everything you complain of above will come to pass. That's what's called a decent society. And why shouldn't childcare workers be paid 65K? We pay currency traders, bond traders and financial analysts many multiples of that and the nett effect of this combined activities is an inescapable economic catastrophe. Childcare workers actually provide a service and contribute to this society. A handful of childcare workers are making a more positive contribution than a floorful of traders in the IFSC, whose main task is to ensure that wealth remains protected offshore while the society they live in undergoes economic collapse.

And if you're concerned about wasting tax payers money you'd be arguing for a moratorium on paying unsecured bondholders. Ah, but I'm certain your rejoinder would be 'we have moral and legal obligations to the bondholders that we can't break' but we don't have moral obligations to ensure properly funded childcare. What planet are you on?

"And why shouldn't childcare workers be paid 65K?"

Because it would mean that the stay-at-home parents they're replacing would have to be earning at least twice that on average, in order to make it economically feasible.

You are aware of the legally mandated minder:child ratios of up to 1:3? Which you'd then have to pad for sick-leave and holidays.

The math just doesn't add up if the childcare workers are taking home twice the average wage.

(Yeah, I know, let's just double the average wage then! Riiight.)

As to your moral questions, I thought we were discussing economics here?

Michael Taft

Thanks CMK for you comments and, yes, ideas - regardless of how rational or beneficial - are part of a wider political struggle. However, ideas should be capable of appealing to common-sense, address directly the current needs of working people, and be sustainable. Childcare, to my mind, fulfils that criteria. So do other measures - early childhood education, wrap-around schools, free GP care and prescription medicine, social insurance-based earnings-related pensions; etc. All these address a real need that people face - a need that cannot be fulfilled by private markets (hence their name: 'public goods'). But, of course, the extension of public goods; now that will be a political struggle. - a train wreck? A service commonly available on the continent? And if you think my 30,000 is too modest, I'll support any proposal you have to divert unproductive expenditure into expansion of public goods.

"A service commonly available on the continent?"

The difference is that on the continent they can run such services at a reasonable cost.

The problem for the Irish state is that it has priced itself out of the provision of any new labour-intensive services ... as such services inevitably end up being captured by the servants and organized primarily with their benefit/lifestyle/career-paths in mind.

Since childcare is essentially an enabler for the otherwise house-bound parent to earn an income, it is extremely cost-sensitive.

It also needs to be provided 250 days a year *without fail*. Not for 250 days minus in-service training days, planning & meeting days, Monday-morning sickie days, a little bit of snow on the ground days, election days when the school is being used as polling station ... etc, etc.

In addition, it needs to provided for circa 11 hours a day, opening at 7.30/8am and only closing at 6.30/7pm (depending on location).

The Irish state is simply incapable of providing such an always-on service without incurring extremely high current & future costs.


'' (sic)

You do know they have unions, public sector workers and all those other scary things on the continent as well, don't you?

Michael has set out an excellent proposal for dealing with the issue of childcare provision in this country. Your objections seem to be based largely on your fanatical hatred of the public sector, made evident by your use of anecdata such as 'Monday-morning sickie days' and other similar items from the IBEC/ISME propaganda playbook.


Its not anecdata, the department figures show that primary teachers are 15% more likely to take an uncertified sick day on a Monday than a Thursday.

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