Investment in ECDs will increase work opportunities for women - report
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Greater investment in early childhood care and education would increase employment opportunities for women in South Africa, the 2021 Women’s Report has revealed.
The report, which focuses on the life and work of women in South Africa, was released on Monday and was sponsored by the University of Stellenbosch Business School and distributed in partnership with the SA Board for People Practices.
“While the benefits to children of early childhood development (ECD) centres are clear and widely accepted, the associated opportunity to achieve another key developmental imperative of enabling women to participate meaningfully in the labour force, is seldom considered – yet this too would aid in addressing persistent inequality,” economist and report contributor Laura Brooks said.
According to the report, it is estimated that more than 300 000 people are employed in ECD centres, 95% of them women, serving approximately 2.5 million children and mostly operating in the informal and non-profit sector.
Brooks said providing more widely available and affordable ECD centres would have an exponential impact on enabling more women to participate in the labour force.
“For each woman who works in caring for children, whether as a child minder or day mother in a private home or community facility, or working in a formal ECD centre, another six to 10 women are able to take up full-time employment,” she said.
She added that increased investment in ECDs would “deliver a triple social and economic benefit” – by promoting young children’s development and capacity for learning in formal schooling; enabling greater participation by women in the workforce; and creating more and better-paid jobs in the care economy.
“However, to achieve this, the government needs to move away from the paradigm of ECD as a social welfare service and see it as a socio-economic development opportunity to grow a sustainable, community-based sector that generates employment and supports better education outcomes,” Brooks said.
The economist said a potential financing strategy may be to attract public employment schemes and enterprise development funding to the ECD sector, for job-creation and entrepreneurship opportunities for women.
“State funding of ECD is minimal and needs to be greatly increased – this would secure better conditions and meaningful livelihoods for workers and in turn improve the quality of services provided to children.”
Brooks said the challenges and barriers pointed to the urgent need to address the funding and the regulatory framework of ECDs, and for the sector to make its contribution to improving education and supporting economic growth and social stability through educated, skilled people.