How women who work are held back by a lack of quality daycare in Africa

Women’s economic empowerment hinges on the assurance that quality and affordable child care is available so that they can go about the business of doing their jobs.

Globally, women’s participation in the labour market has remained at around 52% for the last 20 years, according to United Nations. But women also bear most of the responsibilities at home, including caring for children or other dependants, cooking, cleaning and other housework.

In Kenya, women make up 46% of the labour force. For most working mothers, having formal employment may allow them more options for child care. A steady source of income eases their ability to send their children to daycare centres, or even pay for in-home care.

But for the women in Nairobi’s slums, who toil in the informal sector with modest and irregular pay, their likelihood to afford child care is greatly reduced. This is partly due to the increasingly disjointed nature of life in the urban slum where there’s no network of family support. In the past mothers could rely on this network to lend a hand or a watchful eye until a child is of school age.

There has been a growing awareness of the potential to provide daycare for children in Nairobi’s urban slums. But the quality of care varies widely because of a lack of adequate regulation.

Caregivers in this setting lack the support they need to provide quality child care or ways that they should stimulate the children’s environment while their mothers are at work.

Improving women in the workforce
Our study is a three-year project. It explores the daycare options available in Nairobi’s slums. It also assesses whether a woman’s ability to work and earn can be improved if quality child care is provided and subsidised. The study provides selected subsidised and quality improved daycare interventions.

Almost half of all Kenyan women aged 15 to 49 years have a child under the age of five. For most of these women, participating in the labour force is dependent on concurrent child care responsibilities.

Our aim is to examine the nature and magnitude of barriers to child care, such as high cost and low quality. And what impact these have on the way that women participate in the labour force. This will generate critical evidence-based policy recommendations aimed at increasing the participation of women in the labour force.

The results of the study will also provide researchers with insights into ways women’s participation in the workforce can be stimulated and how the gender gap in earnings can be narrowed.

The findings can also serve as the basis for discussions between policymakers and community leaders about how better to meet the needs of mothers with young children.

A global conversation
The research findings could have broader impact. Exploring the challenges that women in the most vulnerable and compromised environments face may improve their livelihoods.

This research will feed into the global conversation about women in the workforce, and how to approach the targets outlined in the newly ratified sustainable development goals, in particular, goals five and eight that deal with gender equality and economic growth through employment.

Understanding the choices women have to make to meaningfully contribute to their countries’ development, while also sustaining their households, is a step towards realising economic parity. Economic parity should not only be an ambition for the privileged but for all women.The Conversation

Stella Muthuri, postdoctoral fellow, African Population and Health Research Center

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Bhekisisa team
Bhekisisa Team
Health features and news from across Africa by Bhekisisa, the Mail & Guardian's health journalism centre.

The Facebook group taking on South Africa’s white right

Online battle over the ‘white genocide’ narrative on social media has dangerous real-world consequences

Unions slam move to cut wage bill

Cosatu rejects job losses and a wage freeze for public servants, calling this ‘a declaration of war’

Press Releases

Scatec Solar begins another Upington project

SPONSORED Scatec Solar and partners have once again grid connected in the ZF Mgcawu District, and started early...

Over R400-m given to businesses since launch of three-minute overdraft

The 3-minute overdraft radically reduces the time it takes for businesses to have their working capital needs met

Tourism can push Africa onto a new path – minister

The continent is fast becoming a dynamic sought-after tourist destination

South Africa’s education system is broken and unequal, and must be fixed without further delay

The Amnesty International report found that the South African government continues to miss its own education upgrading targets

Business travel industry generates billions

Meetings Africa is ready to take advantage of this lucrative opportunity

Conferences connect people to ideas

The World Expo and Meetings Africa are all about stimulating innovation – and income