Child Care Services and Women’s Work


Se ofreció interpretación simultánea a través de Zoom. Vea la grabación de la interpretación al español aquí.

The pandemic has exposed the global child care crisis as creches and kindergartens closed to contain the spread of the virus. The majority of child care work shifted onto women at home and has threatened women workers’ employment and livelihoods in both the formal and informal economy.  At the same time, many child care workers – including domestic workers - were locked out of employment during lockdowns and school closures. In South Africa, the prolonged closures are threatening the sustainability of the entire early childhood development sector, and pose a major barrier for women workers in the informal economy to return to work or regain their pre-COVID-19 earnings, as compared to men. The child care sector across the world is characterised by informal employment or vulnerable formal employment for women from marginalised classes and racial, ethnic and migrant groups.

There is growing awareness among donors, foundations, the World Bank and the IMF that child care is an essential investment for economic recovery – aimed at increasing women’s labour force participation and reducing the alarming child poverty rates. The World Bank estimates nearly 350 million children lack quality child care. Yet, for investments in child care to be empowering for women and children, they must also improve the working conditions of women workers in this sector. Quality child care services should be more accessible to women informal workers and their children who are among those most at risk of malnutrition and poor early childhood developmental outcomes. Reaching these children and their parents and caregivers requires public investment.  At a time when women informal workers’ earnings are low and household debts are rising, low-cost child care is even less affordable and accessible.

Re-organising and investing in public child care services that meet the needs of children and their caregivers is an ambitious undertaking amidst a global economic recession. Research from UN Women and the ILO shows how this public investment can be partially recovered through new decent work opportunities that lead to more tax revenue and social security contributions. The vast body of evidence from the early childhood development field on the life-long benefits of quality child care services for 0-3-year-olds is compelling. There are diverse actors engaged in research, policy development and advocacy for quality child care. This webinar was intended as a space for various actors to discuss common approaches for more public investment in quality child care services. 



  • Bring together different actors in the child care sector across the labour and women’s rights movements and the early childhood development community. 
  • Highlight the decent work deficit in the child care sector characterised by high degree of informal employment for women – including domestic workers.
  • Situate the central role of government in expanding public child care services and regulatory frameworks, protecting labour rights of child care workers, and supporting women workers in both the informal and formal economies to engage in the labour market on more equal terms.   



Keynote speaker: Isabella Sekawana, Chief Director: Early Childhood Development, Legislation and Families and Acting Deputy Director General for Welfare Services, Department of Social Development - South Africa 

Elizabeth Lule, Executive Director, Early Childhood Development Action Network 

Selma Núñez Parada, Childcare Educator at the Roberto del Río Hospital Kindergarten, National Leader and responsible for Childcare issues of the National Confederation of Health Service Professionals of Chile (Fenpruss)

Fish IP, Regional Coordinator - Asia-Pacific, International Domestic Workers Federation 

Shiella Estrada, Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers in Hong Kong (PLU)


Discussant: Silke Staab, Research Specialist, UN Women 


Moderator: Rachel Moussié, Deputy Director, Social Protection Programme, WIEGO


Reading resources:

The Triple Crisis: Impact of COVID-19 on Informal Workers’ Care Responsibilities, Paid Work and Earnings

Three new ways of looking at the urgent need for quality childcare

UN Women discussion paper: Investing in free universal childcare in South Africa, Turkey and Uruguay: A comparative analysis of costs, short-term employment effects and fiscal revenue

UN Women policy brief: Gender equality, child development and job creation: How to reap the ‘triple dividend’ from early childhood education and care services

Manifesto: Rebuilding the social organization of care