The sector employs over 29,500 staff

The weekly cost of childcare in Ireland now stands at €178 on average.

This is an increase of just under €4, compared to a €7 increase the previous year.

The findings are part of a Pobal survey of 3,928 childcare services.

The Early Years Sector Profile Report shows there are estimated to be more than 202,600 children attending early years services nationwide.

The study has also found over the last 12 months, fee increases have been more prevalent in community-based services and in those in rural areas.

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But the study says that despite this increase, fees remain more expensive in affluent areas, cities and in private facilities.

The childcare sector employs over 29,500 staff - almost 26,000 of whom work with children.

Some 47% of all staff in the sector work part-time, 3% less than last year.

On average, staff working with children earn €12.17 per hour - almost half of these are early year's assistants, earning an average of €11.20 per hour.