Childcare is a critical service that is important to promote Early Childhood Development.  Childcare is a service offered to children from birth to their entry into primary school (school age children may also need childcare).  Its objectives are to offer quality and safe care, learning and development opportunities during the day while parents are working.  Quality childcare can ensure children receive early learning opportunities with peers, responsive care from a childcare provider, safety and security while parents are working, and health and nutrition support.

Many children between the ages of 3 to 5 or 6 can access pre-school.  The primary objective of pre-school is to prepare children for primary school by supporting their cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical development.  Pre-school can serve as a full or partial childcare solution depending on whether it operates for a full or half-day.

Childcare is not only critical for children themselves, but for their parents and caregivers too.  Quality affordable childcare means women and men can work and earn a living knowing their young child is learning and developing in a safe environment.  When women earn and control their own incomes, more resources tend to be channeled to support their children’s health, education, and overall family welfare. Scaling up families’ access to quality childcare has the potential to unlock pathways out of poverty, build human capital and increase equity.

The childcare crisis, which was felt around the world before the Covid-19 pandemic, but has gotten worse as parents, and especially women, have dropped out of the workforce in order to care for their children while childcare centers and services were and, in many places, still are closed.

So, expanding quality childcare has a multi-generational impact: by promoting equity and improving women’s employment and productivity, child outcomes, family welfare, business productivity, and overall economic development for a country.

This thematic page provides key information for those working on or want to work on childcare.

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Key Facts about Childcare

    • 72 percent of all children below primary-school-entry age need some form of childcare (593 million), and 59 percent of these children who need childcare do not currently have access (349 million). Overall, this means 40 percent of children, or nearly 350 million children below primary school entry age, need childcare, but not do not have access to it.
    • The childcare challenge disproportionately impacts families in low-and middle-income countries, where nearly 8 out of 10 need childcare, but do not have access. A child in a low-income country is nearly five times less likely to have access to childcare than a child living in a high-income country.
    • It is estimated that 43 million new jobs could be created with an expansion of childcare.
    • In 2018, global female labor force participation was 48 percent, compared with 75 percent for men.[1]
    • The childcare crisis often means older siblings – particularly girls – are forced to drop out of school due to the demands of caring for younger siblings.

Types of Childcare

Childcare can be provided in many different settings and is called different things in different countries.

Home-based care: Broadly speaking, homebased care falls into two types: (i) care by someone in the child’s own home who is sometimes called a nanny or au pair; (ii) childcare provided for a group of children in a caregiver’s home.

Center-based care: Centers providing care for young children are generally called daycares, nurseries, or crèches. Preschools and kinder-gartens can also serve such a childcare function.

Family and other informal arrangements: These are arrangements that put the responsibility  for care on a friend or family member. This could include taking the child to work or leaving the child with a neighbor, friend, sibling, grandparent, or other relative. This type of care may or may not be remunerated.


Key Childcare interventions

  • Establishing and running a home-based childcare center
  • Establishing and running a center-based childcare center
  • Training and certification (where possible) for childcare workers on child development
  • Establishment of a childcare association or professional network or other mechanism of support
  • Business training and start-up funds for childcare providers


[1] World Bank, 2019

The Nurturing care framework for early childhood development: A framework for helping children SURVIVE and THRIVE to TRANS- FORM health and human potential builds upon state-of-the art evidence of how child development unfolds and of the effective policies and interventions that can improve early childhood de- velopment.