COVID-19 continues to take a heavy toll on lives and economies across the world, changing the way we work and interact, while adding an additional layer of care responsibilities for families—especially for women.
Instead of finding support, many people have discovered deep fault lines in access to social services, including childcare. The childcare system has been deeply affected, with childcare centers around the world closed to protect children and workers.
A survey in South Africa reveals that 68 percent of childcare center owners are concerned that they will not be able to reopen due to lost revenue, while the Guardian reports that about 10,000 providers in the United Kingdom appear likely to go out of business by the time the lockdown ends.
Emerging from lockdown or stay-at-home orders, we have an opportunity to take the lessons from this experience and build back better, stronger and more resilient businesses and personal lives. Employers helping to provide childcare is part of that.
Access to quality childcare is a win-win proposition for working parents, businesses and national economies, allowing workers to go back to their jobs, businesses to get their workers back, and the government to maintain its tax base, as IFC research has shown. Most countries know this but don’t have the economic power to provide subsidized services to everyone.
A new report from the National Association for the Education of Young Children tells of growing recognition across the United States, and in other place around the world, that childcare is an essential service.
Private sector employers can play a significant role in filling the void by offering working mothers and fathers childcare options as part of an overall family-friendly benefits package, which may also include paid leave, breastfeeding support, and flexible work arrangements. This protection for employees enables businesses to attract and retain skilled, talented staff. That is especially critical for women who perform 75 percent of unpaid care work globally, often keeping them out of the formal economy. Evidence shows the return on care-related investment for companies is significant, boosting their overall profitability, employee retention, sustainability, and resilience.
IFC’s recently released Childcare in the COVID-19 Era: A Guide for Employers outlines action employers can take beyond providing childcare, such as allowing home-based work, flexible work hours, and paid leave.
Providing childcare options for employees, especially women, is key to increasing women’s labor force participation and boosting economies. Implementing family-friendly policies with a built-in childcare benefit, especially during times of uncertainty, supports resiliency and enhances staff well-being. IFC calls on companies to explore from a range of childcare options, as they look to build back better after the pandemic.