They Care For Your Kids, But Can't Afford A Heater

You pay more for childcare, but they get nothing.

The men and women looking after your children are paid so poorly some can’t afford to use a heater in winter.

That is the reality for early education workers. Ten daily was inundated with responses from workers, via Independent Education Union, when we asked them to answer 'Why I deserve a pay rise' with many answers bringing home the brutal reality these workers face.

Mrs C* has worked in childhood education for eight years and is so poorly paid that "in winter I cannot afford to use a heater".

Narelle has been in the industry for 30 years and made more as a waitress than she did as an educator.

"I was paid more to deliver food to tables than I was to manage our local preschool," she said.

"I deserve a pay rise, because after 30 years of teaching, nurturing and caring for our most vulnerable, impressionable and at times challenging citizens, just because I love it doesn’t mean I should be paid less."

Evie, 37, has been in the industry for 19 years and feels embarrassment.

"I am embarrassed that my brother at the age of 17 earned more than I did in a traineeship than I did after 10 years in the industry...  I am embarrassed that as a single professional I am unable to afford a loan for a home," Evie wrote.

Other response included Debbie, 57, who has been working in the industry for 18 years and works 7am-7pm most days and wrote her pay 'reflects me as a career babysitter'.

Samantha has been educating children for 30 years, but her role is so much more.

"In a day we could be asked to fulfill roles like counselling -- children, parents and staff, teacher, nurse, referral person, adviser, law enforcer, gardener, building maintainer, cleaner, just to name a few," Samantha wrote.

Pre-school teachers earn on average $15,000 less per year than primary teachers. After nine years the difference can be around $32,000 per annum according to the IEU.

Teachers and childcare workers are also victims of the housing crisis, according to the Council to Homeless Persons. Even when they're landing accommodation they're being pushed to the outer edges of the city, bringing greater financial burdens thanks to paying more for things like public transport.

So why is pre-school and childcare so expensive if workers are being paid below the national average?

Children attend a protest by childcare worker. Photo: AAP

As with most things, location. Centres tend to set up shop in the most in- demand areas, highly populated places, which means high rent.

There's also the forced staff-child ratios and minimum qualification standards, which again cost money for operators.

While multiple rebates and policy changes have been promised and put in place to attempt to lesson the financial burden of  childcare on parents, nothing has been done to help the workers.

The average wage for early education workers hovers at $40,000 and $60,000 and, according to Sarah, 46, after 15 years in the industry "early childhood teachers can earn more money stacking shelves at Woolworths".

Contact the author: rhabib@networkten.com.au

*Workers we spoke to did not want their identities revealed.