The survey was released on Monday in conjunction with NZEI Te Riu Roa's recommendations for early childhood education, Shaping Our Future.

Some unqualified teaching staff, including teacher aides and assistants, reported being paid as low as $15.75 an hour, 75 cents an hour below the adult minimum wage of $16.50 and others were paid below the minimum rate for ECE teachers.

Some qualified teachers are paid as little as $16.75 an hour, which is below the minimum rate for diploma qualified teachers of $19.74 an hour.

Of the qualified certificated teachers, 12 per cent are being paid just $1 an hour more than the minimum rates for degree qualified teachers, including those in leadership positions.

The minimum rate for a degree qualified teacher is $21.65 an hour. 

The Shaping Our Future recommendations include a number of steps, including:

  • improved pay and conditions for teachers
  • improved student to teacher ratios
  • a 1:3 ratio for 3 year olds
  • immediate reinstatement of the goal to have, and funding for, 100 per cent of teachers to be qualified teachers.

The recommendations also include a shift away from a privatised profit-focused system to quality, inclusive publicly-provided provision.

Virginia Oakly, ECE representative on the NZEI Te Riu Roa National Executive, said the survey results were indicative of how the sector, the educators, and the children in it are undervalued despite the importance of early childhood education. 

"It is alarming to hear that some educators are being paid below the minimum rates.

"For the people in this situation that have come to our attention, we are working to support them to resolve the issues with the employers."

The Ministry of Education is responsible for auditing the sector.

"We cannot expect quality education to be delivered in these conditions," Oakly said.

"It is time for early childhood education to be valued and resourced for the good of our children."

“One of the things that we noticed, and it is not a surprise to us, is that those workers in the union covered by a collective agreement are better paid than those who are not.’’

The average wage for senior teachers covered by a collective was $10 more an hour than their counterparts in non-unionised workplaces.

The research conducted by NZEI will inform a pay equity claim for early childhood educators.

NZEI is pursuing claims with several groups of workers including early childhood educators as part of the campaign to get better pay for workers in women-dominated industries.

One early childhood education teacher, who took part in the survey but wished to remain anonymous, said that she was paid $1 less an hour than she should have been, for one-and-a-half years.

After she was put on the correct pay rate and given back-pay, the employer offered her another individual employment contract with lesser conditions including no minimum hours a week.

Oakly said that the public was aware of the issues, and were supporting the educators in ECE, as another recent survey showed.

“They know the work that early childhood teachers do and how skilled you have to be to be one.”

The public survey by the Navigators, commissioned by NZEI Te Riu Roa, found that 80 per cent of participants agreed that early childhood teachers need a pay rise (up from 76 per cent in June) - with 90 per cent of them agreeing that more money should be allocated to increase the salaries of ECE teachers.  

Participants with children currently in ECE most strongly supported this, with 90 per cent agreeing with this statement.

And 62 per cent of participants agreed that early childhood teachers were under-paid because they tend to be female.