Childcare workers are being paid less than £5 per hour, the Social Mobility Commission (SMC) has warned, and the average wage for those in the profession falls well below the national minimum pay for adults.
In its new report, The stability of the early years workforce in England, the SMC reports that one in eight – 13% – of early years professionals are paid under £5 per hour, while the average wage is only £7.42 per hour. This is well below the National Living Wage of £8.72 per hour.
Further, childcare workers are pulling much longer shifts than those in other occupations, with over one in ten – 11% – taking on more than 42 hours per week.
Most childcare workers are young women and their pay and conditions stack up poorly compared with the average working woman, of which only 6% work over 42 hours per week and who gets paid £11.37 per hour.
Despite the high degree of professionalism required for this essential service, most childcare workers receive absolutely no on-the-job training – only 17% do.
These endemic issues have created a childcare service that is constantly haemorraging staff and struggling to recruit replacements, the SMC revealed, with 37% of early years workers leaving within their first two years, and 15% quitting within the first 12 months.
The ensuing instability in the sector is having a detrimental effect on the education of the under fives – a problem that may worsen due to the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, and which is likely to widen the existing inequality gap between different socioeconomic groups that has already disadvantaged some pupils by the time they start school.
Steven Cooper, Interim Co-Chair of the SMC, said: “The early years workforce is vital in helping to narrow the development gaps between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from more privileged backgrounds.
“We must do everything we can to ensure that childminders and nursery workers are valued more by ensuring we pay them a decent wage, give them a proper career structure and ensure their workload is reasonable.”