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Child care matters for women’s economic empowerment. More women than ever are engaged in employment outside the house. Although more women may be working for wages, their hours spent doing unpaid household work at home has not diminished, increasing their overall work burden, time poverty, and stress. This raises the question: Are women really empowered under this model?The answer is simple: No. Central to women’s economic autonomy and holistic empowerment is recognizing, reducing, and redistributing unpaid work and care.
New research seeks to generate new evidence on how to best balance paid and unpaid care for women without creating negative effects for future generations, such as off-loading care duties to school-age daughters, as well as better engaging with men in care work. A working mother, especially one who has the good fortune to be able to balance her home and work, enjoys the stimulation that a job or career provides. She also develops the ability of raising a useful member of society and at the same time gains financial independence. Along with motherhood, studies show that work adds to the completeness of being a woman. All these are enhance the community as a whole.
Access to high-quality, affordable child care is unarguably one of the most critical policy needs to support gender equity in the workplace not just in the United States, but across the gobs. While gender roles are shifting, routine child care duties still fall heavily on mothers, meaning that access to child care can greatly benefits working mothers. Currently, in the United States over 8 million mothers rely on their child care providers in order to go to work and provide for their families. Some researchers estimate this number would be even higher if child care was more accessible and affordable for families. And for the 40 percent of U.
S. mothers who are the sole or primary breadwinners in their households, access to reliable child care may be the difference between paying the bills one month and having the lights shut off the next.Something must change. Both governments and the private sector have significant and different roles to play in changing this scenario, and both need to be sensitively maximized to resolve the current situation. When companies make it a point to take innovative approaches to support childcare, this improves punctuality, reduces absenteeism and stress, increases productivity and motivation for women and men, and increases the company’s ability to hire and retain talented people.
Consequently, employers benefit from better child care, too. The case is compelling for large companies who are able to act with enlightened self-interest and provide high-quality childcare to their employees.Investing in affordable childcare is therefore a critical issue for greater gender equality and the advancement of women in the workforce, and good childcare is a sine qua non for children’s learning and development, with lifelong consequences.
Outside the United States, comprehensive early childhood education and care services attuned to the needs of working families are scarce, particularly for younger children and in many developing countries, where public childcare provision is uncommon and most parents cannot afford market-based solutions. As a result, coverage is often low and highly unequal.Taking quality childcare service provision to scale requires not only careful planning and regulation, but also resources—a significant challenge in the face of current budget constraints everywhere. In addition to governments prioritizing public investment in suitable infrastructure and services, businesses can also contribute importantly.
This will allow governments to make the kind of large-scale social investments that are needed to provide services and protection for all those who need them. This will, in the end, benefit everyone by creating a healthier, more flexible and more creative workforce now and in the future.