Two weeks of productivity lost by Fijian employers as childcare problems continue
The lack of affordable, reliable, and quality childcare options for Fijian families is causing public and private employers to lose over 12 working days per employee, every year, a new report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has found.
The report, The Business Case for Employer Supported Childcare in Fiji, surveyed over 2,700 working parents in Fiji’s public and private sectors, building a strong case for employer-supported childcare and recommending a range of actions that employers and the Fijian Government might consider to better support working parents in Fiji in this regard.
Fijian Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Parveen Bala said the Government recognises the significance of the study, and its implications for working families.
“In line with that, we are moving already to adopt one of the report’s key recommendations, which is to set up a national task force on early childhood care and education to identify and prioritise the government’s response to growing demand for childcare services,” he said.
IFC’s Fijian representative Deva De Silva said that lack of affordable and accessible childcare services was taking a toll on working parents in Fiji through high rates of absenteeism, lateness, low productivity, exhaustion and stress “as they juggle being a parent and working”.
“The juggling act comes at a cost to business with the price tag for lost staff time averaging about US$253,000 a year overall, or about US$460 per employee.”
Formal childcare options in Fiji are limited, and there are no regulations covering the provision of services for children under five years of age. Only eight per cent of working families currently use a childcare service, with most working parents relying on families or unqualified babysitters to care for their children while at work.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes, said the study clearly demonstrates that lack of access to affordable and reliable childcare not only affects early childhood development but also hurts the private and public sector employers, who depend on acquiring and retaining a skilled workforce.
New mothers are particularly affected by the challenge of juggling paid employment and childcare with the report finding an average of 21 per cent of working Fijian mothers leave their jobs within a year of returning to work, reflecting a significant loss to business as well as families. Employers are faced with high rates of turnover and challenges in recruiting skilled employees.
Fijian company Vinod Patel was one of the employers who took part in the survey. The company’s Group General Manager Nikita Patel noted that the results “provide insight on issues the company has been facing in terms of recruitment, productivity and overall retention of skilled employees. The study offers the company opportunities to support our employees which also makes good business sense.”
The report outlines a range of recommendations and actions for business, government and other employers to increase the supply of quality childcare services in Fiji. Included in the recommendations is a firm recommendation for the Fijian Government to establish a “coherent policy and regulatory framework to ensure all childcare services are safe, of a high standard, and accessible to everyday Fijians”.
The report and subsequent recommendations are available to view in full here.