They’re the people many parents rely on the most, particularly in the early years of their child’s life. The people who devote their time to looking after children so their mums and dads can return to work or have some time out for themselves in their busy lives.
They’re the people that children rely on to teach them, raise them, play with them, comfort them, feed them, help them to get to sleep during nap time and show them how to make friends, how to respect others and how to develop skills that will see them through their lifetime.
But that’s certainly not all. We know the list could go on and on because that’s the true value of early learning educators. Yet despite playing such a vital role in our families and communities respectively, early learning educators – 97 percent of whom are women – are among the lowest paid professionals in Australia, earning as little as $21 an hour.
It's a pay gap that exists predominantly due to that fact that early education has always been seen as 'women's work'. Work that has been "undervalued when it's performed in the home and continues to be undervalued when it's performed outside of the home", according to Helen Gibbons, the assistant national secretary of worker's union United Voice.
Gibbons tells Mamamia that early learning educators' poor pay is "just not okay".
"These are incredibly important people who continue to be overlooked and undervalued. Earning $21 an hour massively restricts your life choices, and it's a bit of a saying in early education that when you want to have your own children, you have to leave because you can't afford to be working in early education and raising a family," Gibbons explains.
The pay gap, which sees early learning educators pocket almost half of the nation's average salary, is an issue that has plagued the industry for decades. It has also sadly caused a number of educators to leave their jobs prematurely, or deterred individuals with a passion for working with children from entering the industry at all.