Major new report critiques availability of ECEC across the Asia Pacific region
The provision of early childhood education and care (ECEC) remains patchy across Asia and the Pacific, with limited access, affordability and quality impacting women’s participation in the workforce and proving detrimental to children’s development, a major new report has found.
Investments in childcare for gender equality in Asia and the Pacific looks at the public provision of ECEC across 48 countries of Asia and the Pacific, and is the result of collaborative research undertaken jointly by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD).
It analyses and highlights how the promotion of affordable, accessible, quality ECEC services and facilities, supported by ECEC workers enjoying decent work, are key elements to support a virtuous cycle of benefits for women workers, ECEC workers, and children and will bring transformative change to advance gender equality, decent work and sustainable development.
The report finds that the general lack of the statutory right to ECEC is a major reason for the absence of ECE systems across the region. Children aged between birth and two years of age are the most under-served, with mothers generally obligated to exit the workforce to care for this age group due to a lack of other options. Low-income, rural households are the worst affected, while children with disabilities have particularly compromised access to services adapted to their needs.
Even where subsidies for ECEC exist, high out-of-pocket costs for parents remain, which are being driven up further by the rising cost of living. The high costs involved pose a significant challenge to parents seeking care and often deter mothers in particular from returning to the labour market.
The perceived quality of ECEC is recognised as a key factor in determining parents’ willingness to enroll children in centres. Across Asia and the Pacific, gaps remain in terms of upholding minimum infrastructure and care delivery standards.
Furthermore, the ECEC sector remains highly feminised and undervalued. Wages vary widely: they are well below average and are often below the poverty level. Workers have low levels of job security, employment benefits, and social protection. The sector is also marked by low overall levels of collectivisation, bargaining power and voice.
The report calls for greater investments in quality, accessible, affordable ECEC that provides decent work to care workers.
It provides policymakers, development partners, researchers, civil society organisations and other care stakeholders with an analysis of the policy and institutional frameworks for ECEC aged between birth and six years old and recommendations on how to move ahead.
It also includes more in-depth country case studies from Georgia, Indonesia, Lao People Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines and Sri Lanka that reflect the voices of parents, childcare providers and ECEC workers.
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