Promoting female labor force participation and the quality of women’s employment was one of the main topics of the latest G20 Ministers of Labor meeting, as we explained in this blog. The solutions to reducing labor gender gaps across the world lie in many corners, but a well-functioning care economy is especially crucial. Nowadays, : Married women spend 14 to 42 percent of their non-leisure time on childcare, compared with 1 to 20 percent for married men. And changing demographics, aging societies, and declining fertility rates also make the burden of elderly care a growing challenge.
It is not often that I get to reflect on my own early childhood experience: Some 40 years ago, I attended a public kindergarten in a small town in Germany. My mother would take me there on her blue bike at 7 a.m., I would spend the morning with eight other children my age, and at around 1 p.m., she would pick me up. Many of my friends and colleagues had similar early childhood experiences.
Considering that the potential benefits from supporting early childhood development range from healthy development to greater capacity to learn while in school and increased productivity in adulthood, I consider myself very lucky. Across the world, nearly half of all three- to six-year-olds (159 million children) are deprived of access to pre-primary education (UIS, 2012). Evidence from both developed and developing countries suggests that an additional dollar invested in high-quality preschool programs will yield a return of anywhere between US$6 and US$17.
More broadly speaking, a new study by ITUC shows that investment in the care economy of 2 percent of GDP in just seven developed countries would create more than 21 million jobs and help countries overcome the twin challenges of aging populations and economic stagnation. So the development case for investing in childcare is clear. What about the business case?