Dear Women’s Report reader
The articles in the 2021 Women’s Report make valuable suggestions as to how women’s economic empowerment can be facilitated through childcare and related policies. Indeed, the care obligation — often entrusted to and embraced by women — can significantly hamper economic participation and progression.
Childcare responsibilities have an impact on women’s educational opportunities and skills development, obtaining relevant occupational experience (due to time availability), and physical availability in jobs that demand work-related travel and presenteeism. Conversely, when a woman is assisted with childcare, her time and emotional capacities are released towards earning an income and developing her skills and talents. When a woman earns money, her family benefits from the proceeds.
Laura Brooks outlines the mechanisms of early childhood development (ECD) and why it can boost women’s employment in South Africa. In her article, Laura sets out the complexities of ECD policy and the link between childcare and women’s economic empowerment.
Parents, more often women, may be unavailable for paid work due to childcare obligations. When there are children, especially young children and those who remain dependent on their parents due to disability, there is always the need for an adult to tend to the children’s safety, food, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, and emotional support. Some women opt out of their careers to care for their young children, and when they are ready to re-enter paid work, getting hired is not easy. Lunga Tukani and Anita Bosch reflect on the perceptions of managers when hiring stay-at-home mothers, illustrating the effect of childcare on women’s ability to subsequently access paid work. The article also propositions skills that managers value in stay-at-home mothers.
At times when parents are working, childcare can be delivered by people other than the parents of a child, such as teachers, grandparents, or other family members. Mark Smith’s account of being a stay-at-home-father and the engagement of fathers in hands-on childcare outlines the great benefits and hindrances that men encounter when taking the road less travelled. Yet, studies of dual-income families in industrialised nations show that household and care obligations taken up by fathers are more often than not outsourced to women. In the South African context, the outsourcing of childcare takes many forms, depending on the economic standing of the family and the availability of women in extended family networks. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about differential outcomes for women, as neatly outlined in Jennifer Smout’s article. She also provides strategies for reshaping gender relations and support for women.
The financial cost of care is carried by the family, with little to no assistance from the state. In addition, viewed from a traditional gendered perspective, the emotional cost of care is largely shouldered by mothers. In her chapter, Zitha Mokomane points out the glaring reality that the provision of decent childcare to South African working families is not high on government’s agenda. She outlines the disjointed policy framework, but also proposes solutions towards alignment.
Whether women work as part of the circular movement of their money towards people who provide childcare, thereby needing to earn and income, or stay at home due to the fact that they do not have childcare support options, there are outcomes for the South African economy. In both instances, women’s economic contribution is hampered by a lack of childcare support. The WR2021 focuses on an evidence-based rationale for decent childcare as part of government’s drive for job creation and the employment of women.
Wishing you happy reading!