The study found mothers in the six counties to be more reliant on friends and family to provide childcare support, while mothers in the Republic of Ireland are more reliant on formal childcare services. Both regions provide children with free universal pre-schooling.
According to the ESRI, costs for childcare in Ireland and the UK are among the highest in the OECD, but schemes such as the National Childcare Scheme in the Republic and Universal Credit in the North are reducing these costs for lower-income households.
According to the research, childcare workers in both jurisdictions are on relatively low pay, with the sectors having a high staff turnaround. In Northern Ireland, the report found a large gap in the qualifications, pay, and working conditions of those in the private and voluntary childcare sectors, and those in the public sector.
Meanwhile in the Republic of Ireland, the Core Funding Model and Employment Regulation Orders have been implemented with the aim of tackling low pay, but the ESRI said it is too early to measure the impact this will have on the sector.