Limited access, affordability, and quality of childcare services are negatively impacting women’s participation in the workforce and hindering children’s development, according to a major report.
The report, titled “Investments in Childcare for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific,” examines public childcare provision in 48 countries in the region. Through collaborative research efforts, the report highlights the crucial need for affordable, accessible, and high-quality childcare services, along with decent working conditions for childcare workers. These elements are vital to create a positive cycle of benefits for women workers, childcare providers, and children, ultimately advancing gender equality, decent work, and sustainable development.
The International Labour Organization (ILO), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) are behind the report.
LACK OF STATUTORY RIGHT TO CHILDCARE
One of the major hindrances to widespread childcare provision in the region is the lack of a statutory right to childcare. The report finds that children aged 0–2 are the most underserved, often leading mothers to leave the workforce to care for this age group due to a lack of viable alternatives. Low-income rural households are particularly affected, and children with disabilities face additional challenges in accessing suitable childcare services.
AFFORDABILITY REMAINS AN ISSUE
Even in cases where childcare subsidies exist, high out-of-pocket costs for parents persist, exacerbated by the rising cost of living. The financial burden of childcare is a significant challenge for parents seeking suitable options and is particularly discouraging for mothers trying to renter the labour market.
ADDRESSING QUALITY OF CHILDCARE
Parents’ perception of childcare quality significantly influences their willingness to enrol their children in childcare centres. Throughout Asia and the Pacific, there are gaps in maintaining minimum infrastructure and care delivery standards in childcare facilities.
CHALLENGES IN THE CHILDCARE WORKFORCE
The childcare sector in the region remains largely female-dominated and undervalued. Childcare workers receive low wages, often below the poverty level, and have limited job security, employment benefits, and social protection. The sector also lacks collective bargaining power and voice.
CALLS FOR GREATER INVESTMENT AND DECENT WORK
The report emphasizes the need for increased investments in quality, accessible, and affordable childcare services that provide decent working conditions for childcare workers. Policymakers, development partners, civil society organizations, and researchers are urged to take action based on the report’s analysis and recommendations. The report also includes detailed case studies from several countries, presenting the voices of parents, childcare providers, and workers. These insights can guide future efforts to improve childcare provisions for children aged 0–6 years old.