Joint ILO-UNICEF working paper

Supporting workers with family responsibilities: connecting child development and the decent work agenda

This working paper presents a series of solutions to the challenging social issues. It builds on the conclusions of “Investing in Child Development and Learning: Ensuring Equity in Decent Work and Sustainable Development,” a forum convened by UNICEF and ILO on 28 February 2012. This paper was used to stimulate dialogue and guide discussion during an Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Ministerial Roundtable in New York on 3 July 2012. The Roundtable examined the policy challenges posed to policy-makers, the social partners (employers’ and workers’ organizations) and other societal actors in proposing policies in support of working families.


Working families often face competing demands and tradeoffs when reconciling work with childcare responsibilities.

Finding the right balance is particularly difficult for low-income families constrained by a lack of resources and limited access to the quality childcare services that are vital to give their children a good start in life. Parents need support measures that make it easier to pursue decent work without sacrificing their child’s development.

The consequences of missed opportunities in early childhood reverberate throughout society. Under-investment in early childhood diminishes prospects for a creative and capable workforce. We cannot afford an economic loss on this scale, hence the need for adequate social sector investments, especially in the current climate of economic stress and instability.

This Working Paper offers an integrated set of social sector investments that target the critical stages of early childhood, from pregnancy through to care and development in the early years and later childhood. This integrated approach can give families the support needed to balance the competing demands of the labour market and childcare. Special attention should be paid to women who bear a disproportionate share of childcare responsibilities and are consequently disadvantaged in terms of their labour force participation and decent work opportunities. No mother or father should have to choose between earning an income and caring for his or her child.

The policy recommendations detailed in this paper are intended to provide governments with practical, evidence-based options for family-focused, employment-centred growth. Together, we can develop creative and affordable options for giving every child the best possible start in life.