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World bank, Melinda foundation launch childcare fund for developing countries

Health & Science
 World Bank implementing the Early Childhood Nutrition, Development, and Health in Malawi. [World Bank]

The World Bank in partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US government has launched a new programme to scale up quality, affordable childcare in developing countries.

The move is a critical investment to build the next generation of human capital and place women at the center of an inclusive global economic recovery. 

Dubbed ‘The global Childcare Incentive Fund’, the programme aims to catalyse at least Sh28.53 billion ($180 million) in new funding in the next five years to support childcare in low and middle-income countries.

This will also provide broad returns for families, businesses, and economies.

The fund will support countries to formulate and implement better childcare programs and policies, build capacity, generate data, and gather evidence on the impacts of childcare on early childhood development, women's empowerment, and inclusive economic growth.  

World Bank’s Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships Mari Pangestu said nearly eight out of 10 children who need childcare live in low- and middle-income countries.

She said at a time when developing economies are hit hard by the pandemic and the impacts of the war in Ukraine, expanding quality, affordable childcare is essential for women to be able to go back to work, open up more economic opportunities, and help young children thrive.

"Smart investments in childcare can help countries accelerate equality, build human capital, and promote economic growth in the long term,” she said.

According to her, these investments help build human capital, which is intrinsically crucial for individual well-being, creating more equitable societies, sustaining economic growth, and preventing millions of people from falling into poverty.

A study conducted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation revealed that providing access to childcare for women who don't have it could mean a $3 trillion increase in global GDP (in PPP) due to the rise in female labor force participation.

Scaled universal childcare programs would yield a global reduction in the gender pay gap of 8.6 per cent or about $527 billion globally.

Scaled universal child care access would shrink the gender pay gap in every region and country income group. 

Poorer countries and those in Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and Sub-Saharan Africa would see the largest effect. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it would result in a 22 per cent reduction in the gender pay gap. 

If policies and funding addressed barriers to child care, nearly 15 million women in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa would join the labor force. 

Specifically, in Kenya, for every Sh115 ($1) invested in childcare programs and policies, primary caregivers could generate Sh805 ($7) in economic activity through entering the labor force.

Many moms face the challenge of leaving their children at a quality daycare, citing cost as the number one barrier to childcare, followed by safety and quality issues with existing options. 

Addressing primary caregivers' childcare needs could lead to a massive increase in women's labor force participation rate. This would mean an estimated 3.1 million caregivers would enter or re-enter the labor force.

The survey revealed overwhelming public support of up to 95 per cent nationally for government policies to provide childcare for families that need it. Roughly, 20 per cent of primary caregivers would plan to join or rejoin the labor force if affordable and quality childcare services were available. 

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