Influencing women’s mobility by enhancing parents’ access to childcare and flexible work arrangements

Parents tend to have more limits on their mobility due to their childcare responsibilities. Due to social norms and culture, the responsibility of child and other care responsibilities often fall on women and girls. The ease, cost and availability of care for young children and free public education for school-age children can therefore affect whether a mother decides to work outside the home for paid compensation or to stay at home with her children. The option of being able to work flexible or part-time schedules may positively impact a women’s ability to remain in the labour force after having a child.

Policies that take parents’ unpaid care work into account and the availability of public childcare may enhance women’s economic empowerment. Women, Business and the Law finds that the percentage of women wages earners in economies that provide public childcare or subsidize private childcare was more than twice of that in economies that do not. Of the economies covered by the report, 39 do not offer public childcare facilities; 27 of these are low and middle-income economies. Women, Business and the Law also finds that in 32 economies, the law offers employees with children easier access to flexible work schedule arrangements or part-time work than employees without children.

 

  • How does the cost, availability and access to child care influence a woman's mobility and her ability to pursue her education and secure employment?
  • How can flexible workplace policies and arrangements (part-time, home-based flex hours etc.) support women's mobility?

  • What are some good regulatory practices that enhance parent's access to affordable, quality child-care and thereby contribute to women's enhanced mobility?

  • What social norms and values enable or limit a woman’s ability to take advantage of flexible workplace policies and/or to start her own business? 


  • Katrin Schulz

    Even where the law or an HR policy allows for flexible work arrangements or paid maternity leave, many women may not use it because they fear that it will make them less competitive than those without children. Some women may be experiencing this concern more in open-space office environments, where their coworkers can see what time they come to work, how many breaks they take and when they leave. Our culture must change along with the law and office policies so that women with children do not feel they will penalized for caring for the very young and the very old members of their families while working.

    Of course, such policies are often applicable only in the small percentage of white collar jobs. Women in the service sector, especially hourly workers, may need greater flexibility since childcare services are too expensive but rarely get it. Policies should be designed to enable women at both levels of the economic spectrum to work and to care for their families. 

  • Garam Alkastalani Dexter

    Women often bear family responsibilities, such as childcare and caring for sick relatives around the word. Yet, 39 out of 173 economies covered by the Women, Business and the Law project do not provide public childcare or subsidize private childcare services.  Some economies mandate employers to provide or support childcare but in many cases it's conditioned on the number of female employees, which could be a disincentive for employers to hire women due to the financial cost of establishing childcare centers.  Childcare support by the employer could take different forms.  It could be supported by establishing the center,  establishing a center with other companies, financing an existing center or providing employees with childcare allowances.  Normally, laws do not restrict employers to one form of childcare support. 

    Although mandating employer-supported childcare is not very common around the world, there is a reform movement to obligate employers to provide childcare to encourage women to join the labor market.  For example, the new Labor Law of Iraq mandates employers that employ women (regardless of the number of female employees) to provide childcare services and different companies (employers) can collectively establish childcare centers (article 92(2)). New Iraqi Labor Law is available here : http://www.moj.gov.iq/uploaded/4386.pdf

    The other issue is the quality of childcare.  What do you think is the most important quality standards parents look for when deciding to use childcare services?  Is it safety standards? Door locks? Child student ratio? Location of the center? Qualification of caregivers?

     

  • Ushree Roy

    India lacks affordable child care options, and poor people are the worst sufferer. People who can afford they can avail paid child care facilities. Inadequate child care facilities act as a major hindrance towards women’s economic empowerment. Access to high quality and affordable child care programs are important to maximize women’s participation in the economy. In India, both the Government and other institutions realized the need for affordable child care to address issues related to women’s workforce participation.

    Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme for children of working mothers (RGNCS) aims at providing day care facilities to children in the age group of 6 months to 6 years of working women in rural and urban areas who are employed for a minimum period of 15 days in a month, or six months in a year.  Women with financial challenges can avail benefits available under the scheme. To give the community a sense of ownership the scheme also charge a nominal user fees. (http://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/Revised%20RGNCSScheme_210515.pdf)

    Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is another nationwide programme that provides  support to  pre-school children below six years and expectant and nursing mothers with a package of services viz. immunization, health check-ups, referral services, supplementary nutrition, pre-school education and health and nutrition education. ICDS centres are available even in remote areas and play a great role in providing primary care support.

    For children who are above 6 for them the support is limited, though under Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) the Government has  introduced a concept of open shelter that allows working women to drop their children at shelter homes while they are working. These shelter homes provide nutritional, educational support to the children. Though, at present number of open shelters are quite limited and limited number of working women can avail the facility.

    To bridge the service gap many corporate and NGOs are coming up with new concepts to encourage women to participate in the market by providing child care facilities. Indian bank PNB financially supports women so that they can purchase basic infrastructure for setting up creche.  Many NGOs are also working in this area and constantly influencing Government policies to bring positive changes, one such organisation is Mobile Crèches that supports working mother’s mobility by supporting their children (http://www.starsfoundation.org.uk/awards/organisations/mobile-creches-working-mothers-children).

    More women actively participate in the economy will gradually bring positive changes at socio-cultural level and in future that will act as an impetus in narrowing down the existing income inequality between men and women. It is important to replicate best practices and to prioritize the issue as one of the precondition for women’s economic empowerment.  Moreover, government need to encourage community women to start their enterprise as care givers and training should be provided to such groups. 

  • Ushree Roy

    India lacks affordable child care options, and poor people are the worst sufferer. People who can afford they can avail paid child care facilities. Inadequate child care facilities act as a major hindrance towards women’s economic empowerment. Access to high quality and affordable child care programs are important to maximize women’s participation in the economy. In India, both the Government and other institutions realized the need for affordable child care to address issues related to women’s workforce participation.

    Rajiv Gandhi National Creche Scheme for children of working mothers (RGNCS) aims at providing day care facilities to children in the age group of 6 months to 6 years of working women in rural and urban areas who are employed for a minimum period of 15 days in a month, or six months in a year.  Women with financial challenges can avail benefits available under the scheme. To give the community a sense of ownership the scheme also charge a nominal user fees. (http://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/Revised%20RGNCSScheme_210515.pdf)

    Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is another nationwide programme that provides  support to  pre-school children below six years and expectant and nursing mothers with a package of services viz. immunization, health check-ups, referral services, supplementary nutrition, pre-school education and health and nutrition education. ICDS centres are available even in remote areas and play a great role in providing primary care support.

    For children who are above 6 for them the support is limited, though under Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) the Government has  introduced a concept of open shelter that allows working women to drop their children at shelter homes while they are working. These shelter homes provide nutritional, educational support to the children. Though, at present number of open shelters are quite limited and limited number of working women can avail the facility.

    To bridge the service gap many corporate and NGOs are coming up with new concepts to encourage women to participate in the market by providing child care facilities. Indian bank PNB financially supports women so that they can purchase basic infrastructure for setting up creche.  Many NGOs are also working in this area and constantly influencing Government policies to bring positive changes, one such organisation is Mobile Crèches that supports working mother’s mobility by supporting their children (http://www.starsfoundation.org.uk/awards/organisations/mobile-creches-working-mothers-children).

    More women actively participate in the economy will gradually bring positive changes at socio-cultural level and in future that will act as an impetus in narrowing down the existing income inequality between men and women. It is important to replicate best practices and to prioritize the issue as one of the precondition for women’s economic empowerment.  Moreover, government need to encourage community women to start their enterprise as care givers and training should be provided to such groups. 

  • Nisha Arekapudi

    Parents tend to have more limits on their mobility due to their childcare responsibilities. Of course, the responsibility of childcare and other care work often falls on women. This can have real economic consequences - in fact, according to Women, Business and the Law 2016 data, the percentage of female wage earners in economies that provide public childcare or subsidize private childcare is more than twice that in economies that do not. What policies can governments support to ensure that women can effectively pursue economic opportunity? What do you think about flexible work arrangements, employer-provided childcare, and paid maternity leave?

  • In our country no body bothers to give air time to CHILD CARE because it is a non issue! No laws that have been enacted to address well child care and mothers who are breast feeding. No effort has been made even by the government to give them flexible working shifts that favor these mothers and their children. Some mothers do take unpaid leave to take care of their children because it will be cheaper for them rather than employing someone else.

  • Njoki (Jacqueline) Gichinga

    In Kenya, those that can afford have a caregiver plus house help (aka house girls) to assist with taking care of the children and maintaining the house and house chores.  Additionally, family/relative networks also play a huge role. But this doesn't represent those that are characterised as the bottom of pyramid.  These women are the ones hired as house help and the care givers and one cannot imagine the sacrifices they make with their own family and children to  be a caregiver and house help.  In African countries and other developing nations, solutions need to look not only at improving access to childcare in the formal economy, but informal as well.  A lot of discussions here is focusing on solutions for the formal economies.  We need to find solutions for the informal sector.  

    There are many companies and organisations trying to formalise the hiring process of house helps otherwise most people hire through family and friend referrals.  Formalising the system will allow these women to have rights and not fear losing their jobs if their children fall ill.  If more women find their employment through organisations, when they need time off or something comes up, the organisation can find substitutes, etc.  This creates a win-win situation and will provide these women a sense of job security.

    I think everyone  in both formal and informal sector could benefit from more awareness and understanding of the impact of lack of chidlcare services.  The formal business sector will make positive changes faster than the informal sector. Outreach and awareness is needed for employers (middlle/upper class households) for the informal sector to also grant their informal workers the same privileges they seek in the formal sector.  

  • Stella Bakibinga

    I would also like to add that of recent there is a growing number of lone or single mothers and these have double the burden of child care. Besides having to fend for their children, they also have to worry about the child care which is increasingly becoming hard to address.

    I so much like the idea of having a child care facility at work because it can allow new mothers to return to work early and also feed their children in-between. Parliament of Uganda last year opened up a child care facility for the legislators and its employees and I believe this will make it easier for them to pursue their careers.

  • Camilla Schloss

    In contribution to Kristie’s and Tazeen’s comments on child care in the US, here is an interesting New York Times article on the decision of women to work. Accordingly, in a poll of nonworking adults aged 25 to 54 in the US 61 percent of women said family responsibilities were a reason they weren’t working. 

  • Nwedobong Okon
    Some of the good regulatory practices in Nigeria for example includes the establishing of gender learning centres in universities. These places make room for the gender based challenges that female students face to be discussed and for practical solutions to be implemented. One of the agenda in the centre of gender study, is to build daycare centres within the university for nursing mothers, both students and workers. This enhances access to affordable childcare services without the stress of shuttling different locations to reach the daycare and back to school or work. Social norms that limits a woman's use of flexibility at work includes hindrances to breastfeeding in the public. People tend to frown upon that as an indecent exposure of self on the mother's part. What is most alarming however is that in this same societies, it is alright for a man to urinate on the sidewalk and that is not indecent exposure. Religion also takes its toll by extolling child raising as a mother's responsibility. Establishing and subsidising childcare at workplaces and study institutions will enhance a mother's mobility and work outcomes.
  • Kristie Holmes

    What social norms and values enable or limit a woman’s ability to take advantage of flexible workplace policies and/or to start her own business?

    In the United States, this is a politically divisive topic, especially during campaign season.  Negative focus tends to to center around "deserving-ness" of "free" services...especially when discussing those who are poor in our nation.  There seems to be a complete lack of understanding about benefits to society and the GDP when women are able to work and not spend their entire paycheck on childcare services.  In many parts of the country, childcare costs are equal to higher education (university) which makes working for many an effort in financial futility, especially if a family has more than one child.  A middle class family (with both parents college- educated) with 2-3 children can spend the entirety of one partner's income on childcare services-- forcing opting out of the workforce all together.  This limits our talent pool and perspectives of leaders in our country and overwhelmingly impacts women in their careers, and families as a whole...which in turn impacts the GDP of a nation.

  • Mary Achieng

    Thank you for shading light on this issue, child care to me is one of the major challenges women it tends to work well for those who have money to employ a caregiver women tend to be left to find solution on their own and many are times women are forced to apply there own style of handling it first its costly in that one has to employ someone to care for the baby or if not a woman creatively tries to balance both as a worker and a mother, in Kenya this area has not been given the priority it deserves in that there are no specific child care centers which are government owned majority are private, its even worse for a child with special needs and his/her mother, this has made it difficult for women to balance between education, childcare and work at work place policies like maternal/paternal leave tend to work but should be accompanied with incentives in cash or in kind like companies providing care units or centers which are operated by these companies, Africa and Kenya to be specific should have affordable child care system which could incorporate caregivers who provide such services at the same time are trained, women as we know are known for multitasking all they need is good life for their families if incentives are specific targeted with a clear framework for running programmes like  women owned child care centers which can provide income for them, training as they get to practice, promote a community where children are cared for by many thereby  instilling good values children right at young age this will also reduce the issue of child labour where young women from poor background tend to opt to be employed as child caregivers without proper skills on the same.

  • Alena Sakhonchik

    I think Ebru, Joy and Nisha have made some good points regarding the financial means of support in raising children.  I would like to emphasize women's faster return to the workforce after maternity and/or parental leave could be facilitated through the provision of incentives in the form of tax or non-tax benefits (i.e. cash payments, vouchers) to both parents and childcare providers.To some extent, this could ease a financial burden on parents and provide a foundation for more accessible and affordable childcare outside the home. So far, however, not only governments do not provide childcare facilities in 39 economies, but also in 77 economies they do not provide for any child allowance to parents. While provision of allowances to parents and childcare services might be costly for the budgets in the shorter term, in the long term, this could also be a valuable investment in children as a human capital of their respective economies who will be driving economic growth in the future.

  • Nisha Arekapudi

    Both Ebru and Veronica make a very good point. Several U.S. states, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom offer grandparents and other family members allowances for raising children. This could be a great alternative and allow women to enter the workforce without the added burden of (often expensive) childcare services. What other policies, whether within the workplace or from the government, could encourage parents to pursue employment opportunities when their children are still young?

  • Veronica Ngum Ndi

    Child care is very expensive and can hardly be afford by most families.I think grand parents will be good care givers which can also be considered a give and take situation. What I mean is at their old age they need a certain degree of our attention and as a grown up child to our parents, we are always worried about how they are doing in their homes on their own. At that age, they need care just as our babies need care.If we move them to our homes, they will be good care givers to our babies while we give them the attention they need from us in their old age.They will look after our babies while we go out,grow in empowerment,have more flexibility at work and be international business women.

  • Ebru Uzumcu

    I believe grandparents can come into play in a more formal way. Why not paying them wouldn't be a common practice? Grandparents face all the life problems we all face plus they are struggling with aging. Many of them are retired, craving to find a meaning in that era of their life and they need to feel important. They can join forces with their growing families and as experienced "workers" work as care takers. As women are empowered economically so would be the elders. If governments support it, their earnings can be tax-free, moreover the payment that the families make would be tax-deductible. There is a stigma in many societies about money. It takes time when a change comes through to adjust. However, that's exactly what we all are geared for! To make changes for the better. This employment for elders seems to me a win-win situation.After all, who can you trust more with your babies than your own family?

  • Joy Eze

    Child care is very important. But it is expensive and often unaffordable. Most women (mothers) are at home taking care of their children because they cannot afford the childcare services. With the expensive nature of most childcare services, it is not very easy for a woman to pursue her education or  do other relevant things to empower herself .I think the government should provide free childcare services for children between the ages of 1-4 as this will help to solve some of the challenges women go through.  

  • Tazeen Dhanani

    Childcare in many parts of the U.S. is incredibly expensive. In the area where I live, close to Washington, DC, sending one child to a high-quality childcare provider can cost up to $40,000/year. This often limits women's opportunities to work outside the home, as childbearing responsibilities often continue to fall on the mother's shoulders. When a new mother takes time out of the workforce to care for her child or children, it is usually more difficult for her to re-enter the workforce later on, especially at the same professional level or salary she was at before she became a mom. Flexible workplace policies are fundamental, and offering paid maternal AND paternal leave for new parents for AT LEAST 3 or 4 months is necessary. The U.S. is notoriously terrible for providing any sort of paid maternal leave, much less paternal leave, to its employees. When employers create AND enact policies to support new parents (and this becomes the norm throughout all fields, sectors, and industries across all states), fewer employees would have to decide whether or not they can accomplish the elusive "work-life" balance, and women in particular won't have to decide between their careers (and hence, their earning potential, independence, and economic empowerment) or putting off starting families. 

  • Stella Bakibinga
    Child care is a key determinant for women's success in careers, especialy the ones that require full time presence. A number of women are forced to opt out of school. Countries like Sweden and Norway have in place subsidized child care services make it easier for women to continue with their education and career lives.
  • Sharon Reed

    Key to successfully promoting work flex programs in the private sector is focusing on employee recruitment and retention, and how turnover, poor job satisfaction, and/or lack of diversity impacts the bottom line. Key to successfully implementing work flex programs is alignment of core culture and values, from both a top down and bottom up perspective. Further, regardless of these two points, while some industries may lend themselves to shift work, not all can be supported by remote arrangements. The trading floor of a bank or operator at a nuclear energy facility are two very different, but relevant examples.

  • Andrea Milan

    I fully agree with Nisha on the importance of including men in conversations about flexible workplace policies. HeforShe, for example, has been a very important step towards a greater involvement and interest of men on gender equality. I would be very interested in learning about successful campaigns targeting men at the national and local level, particularly if they focused on flexible work arrangements.

  • Nisha Arekapudi

    It's important to note the benefits of including men in conversations about flexible workplace policies. When men share in care responsibilities, gender equality is enhanced. In Iceland, the law makes it very clear that "employers are required to make the necessary arrangements to enable men and women to balance family life and work" (emphasis added). How can we ensure that men are active participants in pursuing gender equality, and in particular, flexible workplace policies?

  • Katrin Schulz

    Flexible workplace policies are crucial for women's economic empowerment, as they can enable women to work while fulfilling childcare and/or elderly care responsibilities. Perhaps the introduction of flexible workplace policies could also encourage men to share in care responsibilities, which would promote gender equality. While the private sector should play a role in developing and implementing HR policies to support work/life balance, flex-time laws can help normalize flexible work arrangements across all sectors. It is also important to consider that many small businesses do not even have HR departments, so the law can play an important role in ensuring women in small companies can work flexibly.   

    On another note, I find the language used to talk about flexible workplace arrangements very interesting: some call them family friendly policies, others say gender friendly, while still others have other names. Does the way we describe these policies matter for gender equality?  

  • Ushree Roy

    Flexible workplace policies are conducive for women’s economic empowerment. It helps women to balance their day to day activities with their work related commitments. Though, such workplace policies can be introduced only in certain sectors. Government should introduce favourable policies so that women can continue in their jobs if they have to take a break from their profession. Gender friendly HR policy is important. Though, introduction of child care facilities at work place or at community level with appropriate monitoring facility is going to help women with children. 

  • Sharon Reed

    What are some examples of best practices, whether in the public or private sector, that support women's opportunities for employment and advancement by providing them with flexible working arrangements? How have these arrangements benefited you directly in your own career? Within the private sector, which firms, in your experience, have offered the most progressive opportunities for women who may otherwise be limited by mobility restrictions? For example, perhaps an employer offered you an opportunity to work virtually, where relocation was not an option.

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