By Folasade Akpan
Abuja, March 6, 2021 A new World Bank report says nearly 350 million of all children below primary school age need childcare but do not have access to it.
A statement issued on Thursday in Washington D.C. says the report is titled “Better Jobs and Brighter Futures: Investing in Childcare to Build Human Capital”.
It stated that the lack of access resulted in too many children spending time in unsafe and unstimulating environments.
It added that the COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the inadequacies in childcare provision and the vulnerability of the sector across the world.
It said that the new report highlights how investments in childcare could increase women’s employment and productivity, create new jobs, improve child outcomes, drive economic growth and support a more resilient and inclusive recovery from the pandemic.
It also noted that the struggles so many parents had experienced during the pandemic to balance childcare and work responsibilities might also generate policy momentum to address the issue.
“Investing in quality, affordable childcare is key to unlocking pathways out of poverty, helping everyone achieve their potential and increasing equity.
“All of these are cornerstones of a country’s economic growth and productivity,” it stated.
It quoted Jaime Saavedra, World Bank’s Global Director for Education as saying that “the first five years of a child’s life are a period of rapid brain development.
“Providing children with a safe and stimulating environment during this time has huge returns and makes subsequent education investments much more effective.
“However, 40 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries need childcare and do not have access.
We need to urgently expand investments in childcare.”
It also quoted Caren Grown, World Bank’s Global Director for Gender as saying that without quality childcare, parents, particularly women face an enormous hurdle.
She said that lack of access could keep women from returning to work after childbirth, limit the quality or quantity of employment and earning opportunities, which could result in substantial negative impacts on family welfare.
“The World Bank is supporting countries as they take action to develop childcare solutions that can increase women’s labor force participation, improve child development and human capital outcomes, and reduce inequalities,” it stated.
According to the report, to maximise female labour force participation and child development, governments play a crucial role.
“They can help ensure that quality childcare is available, affordable and meets the needs of all families, particularly the most vulnerable.
“Expanding the childcare economy and building the childcare workforce can also create up to 43 million new jobs while facilitating more people, particularly women to be able to seek or return to employment,” it stated.
The report highlighted five key policy goals that governments could take to accelerate progress towards quality, affordable childcare for all families that need it.
It said governments could expand access to childcare by promoting different types of provision to meet diverse family needs.
It added that it may include center and home-based care options, providing flexible funding for families, covering extended working hours, among others.
The report said that governments could prioritise childcare coverage for the most vulnerable families and ensure low-cost and free options were available.
“Allocate sufficient financing to make childcare affordable for families and ensure quality.
“Define clear, workable institutional arrangements and build system coherence and ensure alignment across different parts of government,” it stated
The report urged policymakers to ensure that children were in safe and stimulating environments through a robust quality assurance system and a supported and capable workforce.
The statement added that the report comes on the heels of the World Bank’s Women, Business and Law 2021 report.
It found that women around the world continue to face laws and regulations that restrict their economic opportunity as the pandemic is creating new challenges for their health, safety, and economic security.