Advancing access to quality, affordable childcare and recognizing, reducing, and redistributing unpaid care work, is essential to boost parents’ and especially women’s economic participation and achieve a range of sustainable business and development outcomes across industries and countries.
It is estimated that nearly 350 million children below primary-school-entry age lack access to childcare, limiting their ability to reach their full potential. Further, without access to affordable and quality childcare, parents, but especially women who perform more than three-quarters of all unpaid care work globally, are often forced to step away from the workplace and forgo economic opportunities. When access to childcare sharply declined at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s workforce participation swiftly followed, costing women an estimated $800 billion in lost income in 2020 alone. The growing number of ‘sandwich carers,’ those with elderly care and childcare responsibilities, as well as those caring for family members with disabilities, face heightened challenges. The toll of care-related pressures, including in the context of the pandemic, affects the mental health of people around the world, with women stricken in concerning ways. Prior to COVID-19, mental health conditions were a leading cause of disability. According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety alone cost the global economy USD 1 trillion/year in lost productivity.
Private sector action, innovation, and investment is critical to tackling the global care crisis. From adopting family-friendly workplace policies and supporting access to affordable, quality childcare for employees to creating products, services and business models that provide care solutions for families and create decent work opportunities for care workers, the private sector has a critical role to play in tackling the global care crisis, and much to gain. As past IFC research has demonstrated, supporting employee care needs can help companies recruit and retain top talent (especially women), boost productivity by reducing absenteeism and turnover, and become an ‘employer of choice.’ Further, it is estimated that addressing care deficits could create nearly 300 million jobs by 2035.
IFC’s Care2Equal Project is a part of the World Bank Group’s Invest in Childcare initiative, a cross-sectoral work program that aims to expand the size, and improve the quality, of WBG investments in childcare to improve women’s economic empowerment and child development outcomes as well as bring broader benefits for families, businesses, and ultimately economies.
With generous support from USAID and as part of Invest in Childcare, IFC’s Care2Equal Project will:
- Expand knowledge and understanding of the business case for and good practices related to employer-supported childcare, as well as elderly care and mental health care and well-being, and their impact on families, businesses, and economies in the context of COVID-19;
- Examine the feasibility of interventions that have the potential to lower barriers to quality, affordable childcare, including via new technologies and partnership models;
- Assess childcare demand, supply, enabling environment, and investment opportunities and accelerate the expansion of innovative childcare solutions in emerging markets through public and private sector action;
- Create opportunities for peer learning, knowledge sharing, dialogue, and collaboration between public and private sector stakeholders;
- Promote the creation of inclusive, family-friendly workplaces that support those with caregiving responsibilities and ensure that all people and their families, regardless of socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or other factors can lead productive, healthy lives.