A third of childcare managers say their facility could face closure in the coming months due to an inability to recruit qualified workers, a new survey has found.
The research also revealed that 61% of managers think their facility may have to reduce capacity due to staff shortages.
The findings are contained in the Early Years Staffing Survey Report for 2021, produced by the New Deal for Early Years coalition.
Around 700 of the more than 3,000 people who took part in the research were managers.
Of those, 97% said they feel the impact of low pay and staff leaving the sector will negatively impact on the provision of services.
"The majority of these indicated that poor pay in the sector was the 'biggest obstacle' they faced when recruiting staff," said CEO of National Childhood Network, Denise McCormilla.
"Of the managers who responded to the survey, more than 70% found it 'extremely difficult' to recruit staff in the past 12 months."
The findings also indicate that 63% of managers believe the quality of services for children would be affected by the challenges facing the sector, while 59% think they may find it difficult to maintain staff to child ratios.
The report also found that while the pandemic has placed additional burdens on staff, this was not a significant reason for workers leaving the sector.
"Many qualified and skilled educators simply cannot afford to stay in their profession," said SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O'Connor.
"The survey found that 42% of Early Years educators are actively looking for a job outside the sector with 75% identifying low pay as the reason for leaving their profession."
The report claims staff turnover in the sector is 40% on average in full day care services.
Mr O’Connor said many childcare educators indicated that if things remain the same they do not intend working in childcare one year from now.
"The reality is most Early Years educators earn below the Living Wage of €12.40 per hour and are struggling to make ends meet," he said.
"The pandemic showed just how vital these frontline workers are, which is why we are calling on the Government to recognise their work and address the staffing crisis by investing in better pay in the upcoming budget."
The findings are to be presented at a special online briefing for Oireachtas members today.