The Childcare Association is calling for a minimum of 80% qualified teachers in early childhood education centres.
President Judy Kaa said on Friday at the association's 50th annual conference that the mandate is now for 50% of teachers to have the qualification - which is much too low.
Ms Kaa said it is not rational that both primary schools and state kindergartens have a requirement for 100 percent qualified teachers, but early childhood education does not.
She said qualified teachers are important for the development of children under three, and not enough value is being placed on that.
Early childhood education specialist Helen May of the University of Otago said even if an early childhood centre has 100% of its staff qualified, it will receive funding for only 80% under current Government policies.
Dr May said the Government is effectively punishing people for being more skilled.
She said less funding also means less pay than in other areas of teaching.