On Thursday, some 500 children will be sent home from child care centres as educators strike over fair pay.
Qualified educators are being paid as little as $20 an hour ($39,776 a year), and those with a diploma are paid a maximum of $23.20 an hour ($46,000 a year).
Several child care centres in Melbourne will be forced to shut early and a Sydney centre will suspend normal activities after 3pm, in an effort to highlight the nation’s gender pay gap.
“The extent to which early educators are underpaid and undervalued is a clear example of the gender pay gap that exists in Australia,” says Jo Briskey Executive Director of The Parenthood.
“[It’s a] female dominated industry and when you compare like qualifications with other male dominated industries you can really see a significant gap in the pay.”
Australia currently has a 16.2 per cent gender pay gap, with men earning an average of $261.10 more than women per week.
Over 95 per cent of the workforce in long day care is female.
“Centres closing early will be an inconvenience, but most parents understand how important the work of early educators is and support their push for a professional wage,” says Ms Briskey.
“The disruption that will happen on Thursday goes to show how important and how vital those early educators are.”
It’s the first time in almost 30 years that childcare workers have walked off the job.
“Across the board if educators were to walk out Australia would stop. You think about how much we rely on early educators it just goes to show how much we value them and it should be reflected in their pay,” added Ms Briskey.