Tuesday, January 31, 2006

All European Union workers to benefit from Irish childcare allowance

Lisbeth Kirk:

Ireland will be obliged under EU law to make an Early Childcare Allowance available to all EU citizens working in the country, as well as to children not living in Ireland, reports RTE, the Irish public service television and radio broadcaster.

The allowance was included in the budget in December and amounts to €1,000 per year for all children under six in order to help their parents manage the high cost of childcare in Ireland.

The news may be welcomed by the 166,000 workers from accession states working in Ireland. They can claim the child benefit for children living in their home country, where the benefit of €1,000 could be worth a fortune.

But the Irish opposition Fine Gail party said it was a ridiculous situation that Irish tax payers would be funding childcare for children not resident in Ireland.

The costs of the allowance scheme may also have been underestimated by as much as €150 million, according to Fine Gail.

Irish legislation on the issue will be finalised later this week. A ruling by the EU court gives employees working at least 12 hours per week the right to receive full social security in all EU member states.

Only Ireland, the UK and Sweden have accepted free movement of labour from new countries entering the EU bloc on 1 May 2004.

But the other 12 'old' EU countries will decide on whether to open up their labour markets as well before 1 May this year.

A recent Irish Times newspaper poll revealed that a large majority of the Irish think there are enough or too many foreign workers in the country and a similar majority (78%) wanted to reintroduce work permits for workers from new EU member states.

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