Invest in Childcare
Driving more and better-quality investments in childcare to improve outcomes for women, children, families, businesses and economies.
Driving more and better-quality investments in childcare to improve outcomes for women, children, families, businesses and economies.
Expanding access to quality, affordable childcare is among the most important investments that countries can make to build human capital, accelerate equality, and place women at the center of economic growth. Childcare has the potential to yield multi-generational impacts by improving women’s economic empowerment, child outcomes, family welfare, business productivity and overall economic growth. For women, access to childcare can enable mothers to participate in the labor market, increase hours, productivity and earnings and improve the quality of work. For children, quality childcare can provide the critical inputs needed during the early years to build the foundational skills that will help them succeed in school and throughout life.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, childcare is essential to support an inclusive recovery to enable parents to return to work, ensure the most vulnerable children have access to quality care, and as a source of job creation itself.
Better Jobs and Brighter Futures: Investing in Childcare to Build Human Capital estimates that over 40 percent of children globally—or nearly 350 million—below primary-school-entry age need childcare but do not have access to it. The childcare challenge disproportionately impacts families in low and lower-middle-income countries: nearly 8 out of 10 children who need childcare but do not have access are in low- and lower-middle income countries. Even when childcare is available, there are other barriers including high costs, poor quality, inconvenient services and cultural norms against children being cared for outside the family.
Solutions are needed urgently. Governments need to ensure that childcare is available, affordable, of decent quality and meets the needs of all families. The World Bank Group is working with countries to develop a pipeline of investments in quality childcare that will transform the opportunities available to children, women and families. This effort will galvanize a whole-of-government approach and bring together a wide range of stakeholders including parents, communities, civil society, employers and childcare providers to address the childcare challenge. The World Bank Group has launched the Invest in Childcare, an ambitious cross-sectoral work program that brings together analytical and operational teams1 to strategically address the childcare challenge in countries, including through research, major new data collection, policy changes and new operational approaches that can work at scale.
This work program will support the delivery of the new IDA20 policy commitment on childcare (“to support at least 15 IDA countries to expand access to quality, affordable childcare, especially for low-income parents”).
The initiative is supported by the governments of Australia, Canada, Germany and the United States; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; Echidna Giving; the Hewlett Foundation; and the LEGO Foundation. Combined, these pledges will catalyze at least $180 million in new funding to ensure quality, affordable childcare in available in low- and middle-income countries worldwide. We are also working closely with other multilaterals, civil society organizations and academia to ensure we build on the great work many organizations and partners have been leading in this space. We will be organizing regular consultations to share updates and gather feedback.
Working together, we can help governments meet five key policy goals to ensure quality, affordable childcare is available for all families that need it and secure better jobs and brighter futures.
1Invest in Childcare is an initiative of the World Bank’s Early Learning Partnership (ELP) Trust Fund (ELP is associated to the Foundational Learning Compact Trust Fund). The work will be coordinated by the World Bank’s Early Learning Partnership (ELP), working with a cross-sectoral working group of WBG staff, which will provide strategic direction and guidance. The working group includes members from Education, Gender, Social Projection and Jobs, Human Capital Project team, Health, Nutrition and Population, Poverty, Skills and Jobs and ECD Global Skills Groups, along with various research and survey units (Women Business and the Law, DEC, DIME, SIEF, Gender Innovation Labs, ECD Measurement) and IFC. In addition, various World Bank Group teams will lead on specific pieces of work.
At the country level, the activities of the Invest in Childcare initiative will focus on making the case for childcare and supporting countries to design and implement quality projects that can maximize the benefits for women and children (through catalytic country grants, match funding for projects, technical assistance to teams, and capacity building).
In an effort to test out demand, the Early Learning Partnership (ELP) Trust Fund, which houses the Invest in Childcare initiative, managed a competitive childcare funding round between 2019 and 2021 for catalytic country grants. This round awarded $1.3m to 15 proposals across 13 countries from a variety of sectors. This added to ongoing ELP-supported childcare work in Liberia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The interactive map below provides an overview of these early grants childcare grants. A completion report will be available soon.
A new childcare funding round was launched in July 2022, as part of the new Invest in Childcare initiative, and grants will be awarded in September 2022.
Summaries of country level work
We are working on preparing country profiles with more details on what is happening in countries. In the meantime, we have provided some examples of the childcare grants from Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras and Liberia.
In Bangladesh, a grant to the education team financed a situation assessment that used a mixed method approach to (i) understand the current status of caregivers and childcare services in Bangladesh and (ii) assess the current training programs available and opportunities for professional development for the childcare workforce. The study investigated the socio-economic profiles, training acquired and perceptions of skills gaps and the environment in which child caregivers and center managers operate across different types of providers. It then provided key recommendations along four areas: polices, quality caregivers, pedagogical approach and enabling environment. The final report was published in January 2022 and will inform the design and roll out of a competency-based national training curriculum accredited by the government.
In Burkina Faso, a grant supported a randomized control trial, led by the Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL), to measure the impact of mobile creches, implemented in connection with a public works program, on children’s development and women’s economic empowerment. The evaluation, carried out across 36 localities, found that 25% of women that were offered childcare services used them (including beyond the duration of the public works program). This tripled the use of childcare centers for children aged 0 to 6, demonstrating high unmet demand. The evaluation saw increased scores related to child development outcomes, as well as improved women's employment outcomes, including increases in salaried work (especially for women with children aged 0 to 2) and financial resilience. However, there were no significant effects on women's decision-making power, gender attitudes, or intrahousehold division of labor. The final report will be available soon.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the grant supported a situation assessment of demand and supply for childcare. The assessment used a mixed-methods approach, with a literature review, qualitative interviews and focus group discussions, to study current arrangements, barriers, parental preferences and willingness to pay, as well as the current providers’ operating models, and quality of services. The World Bank team then used the information from the situation assessment to recommend how to integrate childcare into pipeline World Bank projects to improve women’s employment and child development outcomes. This led to the commitment of US$2 million for childcare services to support beneficiaries in the Jobs and Economic Transformation Project, which focuses on increasing access to finance for underserved farmers and firms. Childcare activities are also expected to be integrated into the new Youth Employment and Skills Development Project, which aims to enhance labor market outcomes through technical and vocational education and training.
In DRC, the grant co-financed research led by the Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) to conduct a randomized control trial (RCT) to evaluate the effects of a community-based childcare intervention on children’s development and on women farmers’ time use and agricultural productivity in the province of Kongo Central. The funding is contributing to community mobilization, development of the curriculum and training materials, capacity building for the childcare providers, the implementation of a first wave of 30 centers and the data collection of ECD outcomes. Initial results from the midline evaluation are encouraging, showing an increase in income and time spent on remunerated work, for both women and men. It also showed improvements in women’s well-being and some improvements in child development outcomes.
In Honduras, the grant supported a study, including supply and demand assessments of childcare in urban Honduras. The study included a comprehensive review of the policy and regulatory environment, various existing services (public, community, and private), considering issues such as availability, price, and quality, as well as the childcare needs of households and the barriers they face accessing childcare. The report highlights inadequate institutional arrangements, legal frameworks and provision of childcare services for children ages 0–3, as well as disparities in capacity, operational standards and costs between public and private childcare centers. It also identified gender gaps in parental employment with women being virtually half as likely to have a job as men: the COVID-19 pandemic also increased pressures in this regard. Household and care responsibilities stand out as the main barrier to resuming employment among those women respondents who were employed before the pandemic and had to quit their jobs during the pandemic. Findings of this research were presented in at least three international fora and exchanged with policymakers and practitioners in LAC and MENA regions.
In Liberia, this grant built upon work financed by the ELP since 2016, which integrated ECD training into a skills development program under the Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (EPAG) project. The pilot was designed to achieve three objectives through a single investment: improve women’s employment opportunities; increase women’s self-esteem and empowerment; and increase the workforce prepared to deliver quality childcare and preschool services. Funding was used to conduct an initial market assessment and support the development of training materials, train 210 young women, and implement a randomized control trial. Initial results from the RCT showed that graduates achieved over 85% employment, and around 90% of employed graduates were employed specifically in ECD services. Graduates also reported higher income and increased confidence and self-reliance. Funding will also be used to pilot an additional round of entrepreneurship training to support graduates to establish their own small businesses, providing quality and sustainable childcare and early learning services to vulnerable children in Liberia.
This paper presents the evidence on why childcare matters, looks at the current status of childcare provision, including an estimate of the global gaps in access, and proposes specific actions countries can take to expand access to quality, affordable childcare for all families that need it, especially the most vulnerable. It also includes detailed annexes with guidance for countries, and specific country policy and program examples. The paper was produced with substantial contributions from staff from across the World Bank including from Education, Social Protection and Jobs, Health, Nutrition and Population, the Gender Group, the Human Capital Project Team, the Skills GSG, the Labor GSG, and IFC.
This study uses a mixed method approach to - first, understand the current status of child caregivers and childcare services in Bangladesh and second, assess the current training programs available and opportunities for professional development for the childcare workforce. The study investigates the socio-economic profiles; training acquired and perceptions of skills gaps and the environment in which child caregivers and center managers operate across different types of providers. The key recommendations emerging from the study are then discussed along four areas: polices, quality caregivers, pedagogical approach and enabling environment.
This paper studies whether providing affordable childcare improves women’s economic empowerment and child development, using data from a sample of 1,990 women participating in a public works program in Burkina Faso. Of 36 urban work sites, 18 were randomly selected to receive community-based childcare centers. One in four women who were offered the centers used them, tripling childcare center usage for children aged 0 to 6 years. Women’s employment and financial outcomes improved. Additionally, child development scores increased. However, the analysis finds no significant effects on women’s decision-making autonomy, gender attitudes, or intrahousehold dynamics, suggesting the importance of considering multiple dimensions of childcare impacts.
Coming soon: Mozambique: Childcare Arrangements for Low-Income Families: Evidence from Low and Middle-Income Countries
Last Updated: Feb 27, 2023
Launch video for Better Jobs and Brighter Futures: Investing in Childcare to Build Human Capital