Around 1,000 people involved in the childcare sector have assembled outside Leinster House in pursuit of better funding for the sector.

The protesters include operators of crèche and early education facilities, employees and parents.

A spokesperson for Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly said the minister is setting up an inter-departmental group to examine how issues including low pay in the sector can be addressed.

The Association of Childhood Professionals says there are around 25,000 people in the early childhood workforce on an average pay rate of less than €11 an hour.

It is calling for a Government-backed national pay scale for the sector and more investment in early childhood care and education.

However, owners of facilities say that tighter regulation has increased operating costs, and that raising wages sometimes makes childcare prohibitively expensive.

The protesters want the Government to accept responsibility for sufficient funding to adequately resource all areas of childcare and childhood education - and to increase spending on this area from 0.1% of GDP to 0.7%.

They say that workers on low wages are effectively subsidising early childhood education and care - and that situation cannot continue.

Professor Noirín Hayes, visiting professor with the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin, says there is not a coherent strategy in place in the childcare sector in Ireland. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Prof Hayes said her main concern is getting a public understanding that those working in childcare are professional and are critical to parents and their children. 

She added that the current investment in childcare is not appropriate, adding childcare was not a business but a social service and that needs to be recognised. 

However, Prof Hayes said she is not optimistic that change will come about soon, saying previous attempts to improve the sector have not been taken on board.

She added an integrated approach is needed with leadership from the highest point in Government.