Why is quality and affordable childcare vital for inclusive growth in Bangladesh?

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woman and child behind sewing machine woman and child behind sewing machine

Momena and her husband migrated to Dhaka four years ago, in search of work and a better life. She joined a garment factory, while her husband trained to be a driver. Not too shortly after, her daughter was born, and she left her job and has not returned since. Her reason is one that many Bangladeshi women face when contemplating work after childbirth - “Who will take care of my child?”

This is a common concern by thousands of parents, especially from those who cannot afford quality childcare. Why is quality childcare essential for economic growth?

Research has shown that quality childcare is critical for increasing human capital and the early years of a child’s life profoundly affect their ability to develop skills and succeed in life.  Nurturing care and stimulation in the early years can lead to long-term benefits such as increased school readiness and higher future earnings. Quality childcare also enables more women--especially those with young children—to join the workforce . At the same time, the childcare sector can help generate jobs, create opportunities for women, and boost the economy. 

In Bangladesh, the childcare sector is in its nascent stage. There are only a few high quality and affordable childcare providers – a situation exacerbated by skilled personnel constraints – and most  are not accessible to low-income families.  At the same time, the demand for childcare is rapidly increasing, particularly among low-income households, as more women – like Momena – migrate to urban centers for jobs, often away from extended family who could provide childcare support. This demand-supply mismatch disproportionately affects women, who bear the primary responsibility of childcare in the household. A recent needs assessment of low-income mothers in urban Bangladesh found that 73 percent of respondents cited childbirth and childcare responsibilities as their reason for staying out of the labor force.   

Bangladesh woman
Accessible, affordable and high quality childcare can enable more women to enter the workforce. Photo: The World Bank

How to scale up the childcare sector

The assessment finds four policy priorities to help guide the country to scale up and provide quality childcare. In 2021, the Government of Bangladesh introduced the Child Daycare Centre Bill – a key reform supported by the World Bank -  and took a significant first step towards comprehensively regulating the sector.  It provides a framework for childcare provider registration and quality assurance, with minimum standards for service provision. Building on this progress will be critical to ensure that childcare is accessible, affordable, and of high quality for all Bangladeshis. The key areas are:

Actions taken along these four dimensions will be critical in unlocking the economic potential of women, and giving them the space to boost their human capital and improve their earnings. Evidence from other countries (Madagascar, Burkina Faso) has also shown that childcare can be a critical element of economic inclusion programs for the poor. Childcare will thus have a central role to play in new programs, especially as Bangladesh looks towards the sustainable exit of the poor from social assistance, as noted in national strategies. 

  • This is the first in a two-part series on affordable and quality childcare in Bangladesh.


Fahmina Rahman

Social Protection Specialist

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