Figures released by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) show that over 35 million children under the age of five are being left at home unsupervised as circumstances are pushing more parents than ever into full-time employment. The data was collated from 66 countries and represents two-thirds of the global population. It found that worldwide, through a mixture of choice and necessity, mothers especially are entering the workplace in increasing numbers leading to gaps in childcare emerging when their time moves from looking after their children to providing for them.
The ODI found that, on a global scale, when paid and unpaid responsibilities (such as childcare) are combined, women take on five or more weeks per year more work than men. Often, the assumption is that managing time is only a problem for women in formal sector jobs. However, many governments ignore the struggle of women in the informal sector, the primary source of employment for women in most developing countries. In India, for example, less than one per cent of women in work receive paid maternity leave, according to the report. Occasionally, NGOs can pick up the slack, such as Mobile Creches which provides privately funded childcare facilities in Delhi. The crèches, which are free for mothers working in the country’s construction boom, are built around large development sites and provide care six days a week.
‘The childcare crisis is critical for women’s welfare in particular,’ says Dr Emma Samman, researcher at the ODI and lead author of the report, ‘because it is women who undertake three quarters of all childcare.’
This was published in the May 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.