Foundation research

New research from the Gates Foundation calls for a focus on childcare for a gender-equitable Covid-19 recovery

New to research by the Gates Foundation and the International Development Research Center, released on International Women’s Day, revealed the magnitude of the burden of unpaid care that women around the world bear and that do not has only gotten worse since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been found that women around the world spend 30 hours a week exclusively on childcare, which is almost a second full-time job. In India, both women and men reported an increase in unpaid work at home (chores and care) and a decrease in time spent on paid work, but this extra time translated into more rest for men and women. more time spent on household chores for women.

This research report follows two other child care reports launched earlier in March, both by the World Bank, on the the importance of investing in childcare strengthen human capital, and update of how laws and regulations affect women’s economic inclusion, including childcare. The latter found that only 40 countries have introduced additional childcare measures during the Covid-19 pandemic, and these are mostly high-income countries.

This new research has been produced in partnership with the International Development Research Center (IDRC), the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) East Africa initiative, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, FemDev and the Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in Economics (IWWAGE) an initiative of LEAD at Krea University. It placed particular emphasis on supporting women in low- and middle-income countries. “At the start of the research, we challenged ourselves to determine whether the issue of child care was a high-income country problem or a global problem. One of the hypotheses I had in mind was that high-income countries tend to have nuclear families and might see childcare as a more pronounced issue. But what the report shows is that this is a universal problem,” says Anita Zaidi, chairperson for gender equality at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Zaidi cited an example from the report: “In Nairobi, Kenya, researchers looked at a low-income settlement. The 35 informal childcare centers have all been decimated due to Covid-19. Describing the fallout from the closure of child care centers in low-income neighborhoods, “it has three effects: first, the women who were sending these children to child care centers find it difficult to work; second, women in child care have lost their jobs; and third, the burden of childcare shifts to adolescent girls. The last effect is particularly worrying as it will have long term effects for this generation.

The shifting of the burden onto adolescent girls is concerning as they already bear a disproportionate burden of care compared to their male counterparts, in many low- and middle-income countries. As quoted in the report, Malala Fund estimates that 20 million additional girls of secondary school age in low- and middle-income countries will be out of school after Covid-19. “People often say that developing countries have common families, but evidence shows that there are actually knock-on effects for adolescent girls who step in to fill these gaps,” says Diva Dhar, Senior Program Manager, Data and gender evidence at the Gates Foundation. and co-author of the report.

Zaidi and Dhar, from Pakistan and India respectively, believe that much of the global conversation on childcare has focused on high-income countries, but it is also a priority for low- and middle-income countries. “It’s surprising how little attention child care has received over the years. The pandemic has laid bare the cracks and fractures of our society, which has organized on the backs of women and their unpaid work. As everyone around the world now thinks about how to stimulate the economy, women must be at the heart of economic recovery plans and progress,” says Zaidi. This report and the growing evidence base show that there is an urgent need to address the disproportionate burden of childcare for women.