Poor remuneration slugging sentiment among early childhood educators

By Melissa Coade

August 19, 2021

A new report shows that people working in the early childhood sector would not recommend the career to others.
A new report shows that people working in the early childhood sector would not recommend the career to others. (Oksana Kuzmina/adobe)

An insights report into the early childhood education sector has outlined how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how workers perceive satisfaction in their careers.

The report, produced by industry super fund HESTA, shows that people working in the early childhood sector would not recommend the career to others.

At least one in five early childhood educators reported wanting to quit their jobs in the next two years. 

Dissatisfaction with wages, a sense of their work being undervalued by the community, and a lack of promotion opportunities were among the top reasons for wanting to leave the sector cited in the report. 

Debby Blakey, CEO of HESTA, said the research showed the gap between how educators felt towards their place of work and the long term career prospects they saw for themselves in the sector. 

“It’s great to see individual employers stepping up and supporting their employees, but unless the broader issues of low pay, a lack of development opportunities and community perception are addressed, the industry will face a chronic shortage of skilled professionals,” Blakey said. 

More than 63,000 of HESTA’s members work in the early childhood education sector, which according to the independent Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority will need over 39,000 extra workers by 2023

The findings of this latest report underscore the particular challenges of attracting and retaining talent, with over a third of workers in the sector reported an annual household income of less than $60,000, and one in five educators reported household income under $40,000 per year.

Blakey added that the challenges of the pandemic had cast a light on the critical role these educators played in society. 

“We also saw just how precarious their employment and financial situation is,” she said. 

“We know from the early release of super, the heart-breaking prevalence of financial hardship among these members and it points to the need to improve the quality and security of jobs in the sector.”

A high number of HESTA’s survey respondents reported that although they felt ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’ supported by their employers during the COVID-19 pandemic, this positive sentiment was not enough for them to recommend an early childhood education career to others (43% said they would not compared to under a third who said they would recommend a career in the sector). 

Blakey suggested the introduction of free universal childcare in Australia as a key productivity measure offering better workforce participation for women, and better outcomes for generations of children.

“When Australia faced the initial shock of COVID-19, early educators were there to support the push to protect our community,” Blakey said.

“Now is the time to ensure a long-term, sustainably funded, early childhood education sector. But this funding must also look to lift low wages and improve conditions for those who are so vital to delivering these critical services.”


READ MORE:

Why it’s easy to get behind extra investment in early childhood education

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