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Why Wages for Early Childhood Educators Need to be at a Professional Level

Earning around $18 hour, close to the minimum wage level in Australia, is not enough to keep newly qualified early childhood educators in the sector. 


Sydney, July 2012 - Parents struggling to pay for childcare have been warned sessions will be under pressure because staff will keep quitting until they are paid better.

Research by the union representing early childhood workers showed average daily fees in Berwick and Harkaway rose from $A68.61 to $A77.57 in the space of a year.

But United Voice says 180 early childhood educators leave the sector every week across Australia because of low pay and burnout.

The union says a professional wage would counter high turnover, and wants $A1.4 billion in recurrent funding from the federal government.

Children's Domain Child Care and Early Learning Centre director Jenny Healey said she had to raise childcare fees every year by between 5 and 15per cent, but the large government subsidies meant parents were not paying the true cost. "Childcare is actually very affordable for families."

The Berwick centre has 11 staff to care for 60 children. Ms Healey said childcare workers were highly influential on a child's learning. "We're the same as primary school teachers and should be recognised for the work we do. We lay the groundwork."

She said the minimum qualifications for childcare would take two to three years of study, plus work on the job.

Berwick Neighbourhood Centre manager Michelle Coburn said government funding cuts had forced it to reduce occasional childcare classes and cut staff.

The United Voice survey revealed fees in the 3806 postcode jumped by 13 per cent in 12 months, including 6.4per cent between February and April. Victorian secretary Jess Walsh said childcare workers struggled to stay in their jobs on such poor wages.

"Despite playing a key role in the education of our kids, early childhood educators are paid about $18 an hour - not much more than the minimum wage. Little wonder that turnover is at 32 per cent as 15,000 educators leave the sector in Australia every year."

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