International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, on Wednesday said 77 percent of companies surveyed in Bangladesh do not yet offer childcare options to their employees – potentially preventing women from participating equally in the labor force in the country, reports BSS.
According to ILO estimates, unemployment rate of women in Bangladesh is almost double that of men. IFC’s survey of 306 private sector companies in Bangladesh, including those from nonprofits, manufacturing, financial services, and information technology sectors, found that only 23 percent offer childcare options to their employees, 16 percent plan to, while 61 percent have no plans yet, said an IFC press release.
Lack of access to good quality, affordable childcare is a major obstacle to women’s participation in the labor force across the world because women usually bear a disproportionate share of childcare responsibilities. Studies, including from IFC, suggest that employer-supported childcare can be a win-win for all – it improves physical and cognitive outcomes for children, enhances employment opportunities for women, and boosts productivity and profits for businesses – supporting socio-economic growth.
In Bangladesh, companies with more than 40 female employees are legally required to offer childcare options. IFC conducted the survey to better understand the opportunities and challenges that companies face in the country, aiming to raise awareness that the benefits of employer-supported childcare outweigh the cost of implementing it.
Since 2017, IFC has produced several reports on childcare, including from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, highlighting the innovative approaches that companies have taken to provide childcare. “Employers that provide childcare attract and retain quality employees, most pointedly women employees. Employer-sponsored childcare and family- friendly workplace policies can benefit families, businesses, and the economy,” said Wendy Werner, IFC Country Manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.
The IFC’s survey results point towards a strong business case for employer-supported childcare and incorporate recommendations for the private, public, and development sectors to boost employer-supported childcare in the country. The survey, conducted between May and July, was funded by the Canadian government and developed after consultations with over 75 employees and 40 stakeholders, including government representatives and care providers.
The research was conducted in collaboration with LightCastle Partners; international organizations ILO/IFC Better Work Bangladesh, UNICEF Bangladesh, UN Global Compact Bangladesh, and the World Bank; industry associations Bangladesh Association of Call Center & Outsourcing, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Bangladesh Leasing and Finance Companies Association, and Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, including Business Initiative Leading Development; care providers BRAC Institute of Education Development and Phulki; Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority; the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and Bangladesh Shishu Academy.