Child Care

Bangladesh holds dialogue to chart way forward for the childcare economy

The Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs together with ILO and UN Women held a consultative dialogue on ways of effectively scaling up accessible, affordable, and quality childcare services to all parents and children countrywide.

News | 13 November 2023
© ILO
The Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs together with ILO and UN Women held a consultative dialogue on ways of effectively scaling up accessible, affordable, and quality childcare services to all parents and children countrywide.

The provision of childcare services is critical for attaining gender parity in the world of work by increasing women’s participation in the labour force, which lags far behind (42.8 per cent) men’s participation (80 per cent). Also, women continue to be underemployed, have overrepresentation in low paid jobs working mostly in informal sectors (96.6 per cent according to the Labour Force Survey 2022).

"The Government of Bangladesh recognizes the importance of creating an enabling environment for women to enter and remain in the work force through different policy and programming initiatives, including through provision of adequate childcare services," said Nazma Mobarek, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs.

Bangladesh is making steady progress towards ensuring 50 per cent of women join the labour force by 2030, the participation of women in the labour recording an increase from 36 per cent in 2017 to the current 42.8 per cent, according to the Labour Force Survey (2022).

Women’s engagement in household chores has been identified as one of the barriers limiting their overall participation in the labour market. They constitute 65 per cent of the country’s unpaid family workers, bearing a disproportionate burden in caring for children. A Time Use Survey undertaken in 2021 found that women in Bangladesh spend between 5-7 times more time on unpaid care work compared to men.

The Secretary said the National Women Development Policy 2011 underscores the need for reducing and redistributing women’s unpaid care burden to enable women to engage in other economic activities. The Government passed the Child Daycare Centre Act 2021 to enable childcare needs to be shared with public and private day care centres, outlining guidelines on the quality standards that would support proper care, learning and development for children.

Speaking at the same event, ILO Country Director for Bangladesh Tuomo Poutiainen commended the Government on the various initiatives they had taken to increase women’s participation in the labour force flagging the need for broader use of the 5R framework, which entails recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid care, rewarding care work, and ensuring representation of care workers in decision-making processes.  

“If women’s participation in the labour force is not democratized, it is unlikely to attract their entry and retention in the world of work. It is therefore important to make care services more functional and responsive to the needs of women, and society at large,” Poutiainen said.

UN Women’s Deputy Country Representative Navanita Sinha underscored the need to subsidize childcare for informal sector workers, and to carefully analyse the care provided to young children in the learning systems to ensure that childcare services providers do not perpetrate negative gender socialization that keeps girls and women away from the workplace.

The dialogue attracted participants from various government ministries, employer and worker organisations, civil society, caregiving, and training institutions who raised a number of issues critical for the success of the childcare and overall care economy.

These include the provision of play-based learning and early childhood education in the childcare centres, making the services inclusive for children with disabilities and for migrant workers’ children, ensuring childcare services are affordable and accessible to informal workers, exploring models of  community-based childcare centres, utilizing existing infrastructures of the government such as primary schools, engaging private sector for public-private partnership, carrying out a care gap analysis and demand survey, and many more.