Today, the Early Childhood Action Network (ECDAN), along with our partners, urge leaders and decision-makers across all sectors of society – particularly governments, donors, and employers – to prioritize and provide affordable, high-quality childcare services and invest in policies and services that strengthen national childcare systems.
The world is in the midst of a childcare crisis. Approximately 40% (350 million) of the world’s children below primary school age are in need of childcare services but do not have access, with nearly 8 out of 10 of those children living in low- and middle-income countries (World Bank, 2021). COVID-19 has compounded the problem by exacerbating the underlying problems of inadequate childcare systems while placing new, unprecedented hardships on children, caregivers, and childcare providers (Center for Global Development, 2021). Job losses, particularly for women in the informal and formal economy, significant disruptions at schools and childcare, and shutdowns due to the pandemic have threatened recent economic gains and hard-fought progress on gender equality (UN Women, 2020). We can reverse this trend by investing in our future – through stronger, more equitable, and universal childcare systems that help children, women, and families thrive and reach their full potential. And we must act now.
While the need is staggering, the evidence is clear – the social, economic, and developmental benefits of strengthening childcare systems will have a lasting impact by helping children reach their full potential. Expanding access to childcare services stimulates economies by creating new decent work opportunities. It also advances gender equality by eliminating barriers for women to enter into, return to, and remain in the workforce while improving their earnings and livelihoods. Removing barriers to women’s labor-force participation could boost GDP by 15%, and investing in early childhood development is known to be one of the most cost effective investments countries can make (IDRC et al, 2021). Investing in childcare services is a foundational investment in human capital (World Bank, 2021), yielding positive outcomes for children, women, families, and economies, including:
- Improving short- and long-term child development: Quality childcare helps prepare children for primary school, provides a stimulating and safe environment at a critical time in their brain development, and can lead to positive nutrition and long-term socio-economic and educational outcomes.
- Generating economic growth: Access to affordable, quality childcare will help to improve the terms of women’s participation in the workforce, increase their earnings, and secure their livelihoods by creating options for children to learn and grow during working hours. New jobs will be created to meet the need for childcare (an estimated 43 million new jobs worldwide) (World Bank, 2021). New sources for tax revenue and social security contributions will result from that job creation and spur economic growth.
- Addressing gender inequality: Improving the terms in which women engage in paid work and creating more and decent opportunities in the childcare sector will help to narrow earning gaps in the formal and informal economy and redistribute the disproportionate responsibility for care currently placed on women.
- Strengthening families: More, decent work opportunities for women will lead to increased family income. For older children who often have responsibility to care for younger children, especially girls, access to affordable childcare services will reduce their responsibility for care, allowing them to focus on their own education. Childcare options for adolescent mothers will help them reenter school so they can continue their education.
The evidence is clear, the need is great, and the opportunity to act is now.
As countries consider how to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and more resilient, ECDAN urges leaders across all sectors to work together to strengthen and expand childcare systems. Specifically, we call for coordinated action to:
- Increase financing to expand childcare services through a diverse set of models so all families in need of childcare have access to quality services, and prioritize childcare within national COVID-19 recovery plans.
- Prioritize vulnerable families and children – particularly those with special needs – by offering low-cost and free childcare services.
- Ensure children are in safe, stimulating, and enabling environments while in childcare by implementing strong quality standards and monitoring systems and providing adequate training for providers.
- Collaborate with parents and providers in the design and implementation of childcare services so they address the unmet needs of working women and families.
- Support childcare providers, who are poorly paid, have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and must now take on additional financial burdens to ensure our children are safe, with a living wage, social protection, adequate funding, and proper training. Help women entrepreneurs set up childcare businesses through grants, subsidies, and other incentives.
Through this call to action, we seek to engage and mobilize multi-stakeholders, forge new partnerships and build bridges between the gender equality, labor, parenting, and early childhood development movements. We urge governments, donors, businesses, and civil society to prioritize investing in childcare services. Your voice can help us build on the progress already achieved and grow this global movement where universal access to free and affordable, high-quality childcare services is within reach for every child and family, particularly children with disabilities, in crisis, or facing other hardships.
We believe we must leverage our collective voices to enact change, and we must do it now. Join our Call to Action to show your commitment and stay informed about the campaign. By participating in this campaign, you can share your experiences, expertise, knowledge, and resources so others can benefit from them and help us catalyze action to expand high-quality, affordable childcare services for everyone.
Who have Joined the Call:
Who have Joined the Call:
Aga Khan Foundation
Chair, Action, Networking and Advocacy Committee
La Leche League International
Presidente OMEP-France, Representante OMEP Ã l’UNESCO
L’Organisation Mondiale pour l’Éducation Préscolaire (OMEP)
Princess Hawa Conteh
Ministry of Basic and senior secondary education
Early Childhood Development Specialist
Independent Education Management Consultant
PPME Consult Nig Ltd
Anas e Abo Sada
Ministry of education
Enoch Oluwatimilehin Aboderin
1. World Bank, Better Jobs and Brighter Futures: Investing in Childcare to Build Human Capital, 2021,https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/35062
2. Center for Global Development, The Global Childcare Workload from School and Preschool Closures During the COVID-19 Pandemic, 2021, https://www.cgdev.org/publication/global-childcare-workload-school-and-preschool-closures-during-covid-19-pandemic
3. UN Women, From Insight to Action: Gender Equality in the Wake of COVID-19, 2020, https://www.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/Headquarters/Attachments/Sections/Library/Publications/2020/Gender-equality-in-the-wake-of-COVID-19-en.pdf
4. IDRC et al, Evidence Review of the Global Childcare Crisis and the Road for Post-Covid-19 Recovery and Resilience: Recovering from COVID-19,