Investing in our Children

Posted on March 05, 2013 by Micheál Collins

Children are central to the long-term success of our society and economy; of course they are a lot more than that. However, taking the narrow focus of economic policy and long-term investments, all the evidence points towards the merit of investing in high quality professionally provided education and care for our children.

When it comes to the model we should adopt, a number of Scandinavian countries lead the way. They provide comprehensive systems of maternity, paternity and parental leave; high quality state supported childcare and a comprehensive after-school system. This model was explored at an event this week organised by Barnardos, The National Women's Council, OPEN and Start Strong.

At the conference I spoke on the options for Ireland moving towards this system. If we regard it as an investment, just like a bridge or a motorway, then the economics of investing large sums of scarce exchequer resources in our children makes perfect sense. Over time the benefits far outweigh the costs - at a ratio of between 7:1 and 4:1 (benefits:costs) as established by a NESF Cost Benefit Analysis in 2005. Of course there are challenges in such a move; we may need to reallocate some of the €3 billion we already spend on child supports, raise some additional taxes and engage in some borrowing to fund this.

My presentation to the conference is here.

It cites my recent research on Minimum Income Standards and The Cost of a Child and The Cost of Work which are available here.

The other inputs from the conference are available on the websites of the four organisations: Barnardos, The National Women's Council, OPEN and Start Strong.

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