Employment experts are warning that childcare costs are now like having a second mortgage for many parents.
According to the National Recruitment Federation, Irish parents are now paying an average of €622 a month - the highest rate in Europe.
The federation is calling on the Government to prioritise childcare costs in the budget - specifically by subsidising childcare for one and two-year-olds.
It has also slammed the so-called "granny grant" as "unworkable."
NRF president Frank Farrelly said the costs are particularly affecting working women:
"It just makes no economic sense for many people to work," he said.
"It is impacting on the workforce and recruitment due to the lower participation rate of women.
"This had amplified the talent shortage.
"So while many might make a choice to work in the home, there are many women who would prefer to work.
"Due to the cost of childcare, their talent and skills are missed from the labour force - and this is across all sectors."
He said the costs mean Irish women over the age of 35 have lower participation rates than their EU counterparts.
With childcare costs equalling up to two-thirds of the average wage, he said "for many we are hearing that childcare is worse than a second mortgage."
The NRF is calling for a complete overhaul of the social welfare system to make it more flexible.
"Maybe calculate it at an hourly rate, without penalisation, this allowing women to work around the family," said Mr Farrelly