How Public Childcare Services Have Helped to Promote Gender Equality in the Workforce

Publicly provided childcare programs have been proven to significantly reduce unpaid labor and increase female labor force participation rates. These policies could be implemented in many different manners, whether nationwide and public, small-scale and private, or community-based childcare.

Mexico launched a public daycare program known as the Programa de Estancias Infantiles para Apoyar a Madres Trabajadoras, which provides financial support to daycare centers; subsidized care services for low income parents working, seeking work, or obtaining an education; and training for care professionals. This program helped around 250,000 mothers over 9,000 daycare centers. The employment rate for these mothers increased by 18 percent and on average also increased paid work hours by seven hours a week. The hours spent simultaneously on childcare and other work were reduced by 10 hours a week, accompanied by another 2 hour drop in time spent exclusively for childcare. Overall, this program had very positive effects on directly reducing time spent on unpaid labor, especially because Mexico is a developing country and the program is easily nationally scalable since it is based simply on financial compensation.

In India, the NGO Mobile Crèches provides child care services for women employed in public works programs on construction sites. Mobile Crèches ensures childcare, including health, nutrition, and early education, for children up to age 12 living on the construction sites in New Delhi, India. In addition, the program is financed by the builder of the construction sites themselves. Mobile Crèches has helped over 867,000 children, trained over 6,500 women, and built over 1,000 daycare centers. By providing childcare and work opportunities for women, unpaid labor is reduced significantly, and women’s labor force participation also increases, redistributing unpaid labor as a result.

Similarly, Sweden expanded their affordable childcare facilities such as daycare and pre-schools to working mothers, combined with public elderly care, which helps women who couldn’t work before due to impending care responsibilities manage paid work. Longer school days and pre-school hours provide opportunities to working mothers to simultaneously participate in the workforce. Elderly care allows both the elders to lead healthier, more active lives, but also reduces the amount of time it takes for their children to maintain their well-being.

In more developed countries, childcare remains an extremely necessary tool to keep women in work and reduce their unpaid childcare work within households. During the COVID-19 pandemic, state-level childcare facility closures were correlated with increased unemployment among women than men. In states that shut down these services, the likelihood that a woman was employed was 2.6% lower, affecting over 600,000 positions. Maintaining public and even private childcare services is vital for reducing the time that many mothers spend in childcare with which they could instead pursue paid work opportunities.