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Childcare key to greater female workplace participation

Improving the cost and availability of childcare is key to greater female participation in the workforce, according to a new paper published by Chartered Accountants Ireland today.

It is the first of several policy papers that the Institute will publish this year on priority areas identified by its members which would support the economy.

The policy paper states that the “steep cost and lack of availability of childcare” is the biggest challenge facing working parents today.

Two-thirds of its 33,000 members pay childcare costs, with a third of members paying between €1,000-€2,000 per month for childcare.

16% of members, mostly female, have reduced their working hours to care for a child.

CAI is urging the Government to increase childcare funding, capital investment and grant support to the sector to increase female labour market participation and encourage growth in the number of childcare providers.

It said the Government should also fasttrack the process of opening up national childcare subsidies to childminders.

Sinéad Donovan, CAI president, said affordable, quality childcare “drives more sustainable, inclusive economic growth and competitiveness”.

“Government’s ambition to tackle the provision of childcare is welcome for businesses in today’s tight labour market,” she said. “Paving the way for greater female participation in the workforce should be a priority for policymakers in 2024.”

The policy paper entitled The Next Financial Year: Building Capacity, sets out a number of other recommendations to improve the business environment.

On housing, the policy paper identifies specific measures to ease cost pressures for developers and landlords to stimulate supply.

It suggests that a deferral of PAYE and VAT payments for developers and builders until housing units are sold could reduce development costs, ease cash-flow concerns and make investment more appealing.

The CAI also recommended that further incentives should be provided to encourage private landlords to remain in or move to the Irish market, such as allowing local property tax to be deducted against rental income or allowing non-resident landlords to collect rent directly from tenants.

In the workplace, the paper recommends giving certainty to workers on how their place of work and commuter costs are to be treated in the tax system would put Ireland’s employment environment on a more progressive footing.

It called for the tax system to “reflect hybrid working norms and bring an end to pandemic experimentation period”.

CAI also noted that digital skills are “essential” to meet current and future workforce needs, and that Government should do more to meet its target of 80% of adults having basic digital literacy skills by 2030.

Dr Brian Keegan, CAI director of public policy, welcomed the Government’s engagement with the institute’s proposals in the past year, but said “more needs to be done”.

“Building capacity in our economy does not stop at the bricks and mortar of much-needed housing supply. It must include targeted measures that actively facilitate women who want to work, and reflect the reality of a more dispersed, and digital-first workplace if businesses are to succeed long-term,” he said.

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