Early childhood educators are justified in their campaign for higher wages. The work they do adds immense value to the wellbeing of children, building their capacity to learn and to contribute to society.
If we as a society valued this profession more, we would find a way to make sure they are paid more fairly.
It is not OK that a degree qualified early childhood teachers earns less than their equally qualified colleagues in the school system and that a certificate III qualified educator earns only $23 pre hour, nearly half the average wage.
As Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek says:
“It is completely ridiculous that someone with a Certificate III in early childhood gets paid just over $20 an hour while someone with a Certificate III in metalwork gets paid more like $40 an hour and no one can tell me that the fact that 97 percent of these workers are women is not relevant to the fact that they are being so massively underpaid. It's just not possible for the workforce in early childhood care and education to continue to be ripped off in this way, unable to afford to support themselves,
particularly in cities like Sydney.”
Why the work of early childhood educators is valuable and worth more than we pay them now:
- Educators support children’s development when their brains are growing the fastest and laying the foundations for their social, emotional and cognitive wellbeing
- Children’s brains learn the most in the first five years—80 percent of brain development occurs in the first four years
Children who have one year or more of early learning with a qualified early childhood teacher have better results in their NAPLAN tests in year 3
- Children with two or more years of early learning do better in PISA tests (Programme for International Student Assessment—completed when children are 15)
- Children who participate in early learning have HALF the rate of vulnerability when they start school of children who have had no experience of early learning.
As Professor Edward Melhuish from Oxford University says:
“Children who have good preschool experiences will do better in the education system, will be more adaptable, will be better socially-adjusted. They will be capable of fulfilling the roles which society demands of them in the future.”
This doesn’t happen by magic.
All of these great benefits for children, their families and society happen because of the dedication and professional skills of early childhood educators.
If we don’t pay them enough, we won’t attract or keep great educators in our early learning centres.
Who should pay for these higher wages? We know that early learning providers are already passing on high costs to parents.
“The burden should not be on parents to pay more for quality early learning,” says Early Childhood Australia CEO Samantha Page.
“The economic rationale for investing in early education is very, very strong and we shouldn’t be relying on individual parents being able to afford it.”
It really is up to the government to invest more—in many OECD countries the government covers 90 percent of the cost of providing early learning—in Australia the government covers just 65 percent—mostly in the subsidy system.
The campaign for just, professional pay won’t go away. Educators, like parents, are in for the long haul.
Paying early childhood educators what they are worth is an investment our society must make to create a quality future for Australia.
Find out how to support the campaign for fairer educators pay here.