Navigating Australia’s Minimum Wage Increase within the Early Childhood Education Care Sector

Navigating Australia's Minimum Wage Increase within the Early Childhood Education Care Sector

In the world of early childhood education and childcare (ECEC), the dedication of educators often goes unnoticed. These professionals play a crucial role in nurturing and educating children, yet they have historically been undervalued and underpaid. Although the recent decision by Fairwork to increase the minimum wage assists with keeping pace with inflation, it’s only a very small step in the right direction towards two deeper issues: the gender pay gap and the need for increased funding across the sector. 

Early childhood educators are the foundation of a child’s educational journey, providing safe and nurturing environments where children can learn, grow, and develop essential skills. Despite their vital role, educators in our sector are paid less than their peers in Primary and Secondary education and less than professional in other industries with similar qualification and training requirements. This disparity has long been a concern, as it affects the capability of the sector to attract and retain the most talented educators which can impact the continuity and quality of care and education provided to young children. 

The Fair Work Commission has announced a 3.75% increase in the minimum wage for most awards. At Young Academics, we already pay all our staff above the minimum Award wages, however we have taken the considered decision to increase all staff wages by a further 3.75%. While this decision reflects a commitment to improving the living standards of our staff, it only scratches the surface of a much larger issue – the gender pay gap in the childcare sector. 

The childcare industry, staffed by 96% women, is characterised by lower Award pay rates compared to other sectors. This legacy issue likely created by a view that looking after children is “women’s work” and so therefore “how hard could it be?”, exacerbates the national issue around gender pay gap. However, the required qualifications, training time, and skills for early childhood educators are the same and often higher than other industries with higher-average remuneration. 

That’s why we believe that addressing wage inequality goes beyond these incremental wage increases. It requires a concerted effort to recognise and rectify the gender pay gap that pervades the childcare sector. True equity involves advocating for fair compensation that reflects the invaluable contributions of early childhood educators, who shape the foundational experiences of young children. 

 Furthermore, achieving fair compensation for early childhood educators will also necessitate an increase in funding for the sector. Adequate funding is crucial to ensure that early childhood education and care providers can afford to pay their staff competitive wages without compromising the quality of care and education. Government support and investment in early childhood education are essential to bridge the funding gap and support the sector’s sustainability and growth. 

Although it is difficult to draw exact comparisons, our best estimate is that government funding for primary and secondary education is 2.5-3 times as much per staff member when compared to early childhood education and care. 


By addressing the sector-wide gender pay gap, advocating for fair wages that correspond to the required expertise, and securing increased government funding to the whole sector, we believe we can improve the outcomes of young children and ultimately deliver better for the adults they will become.