Where do rich countries stand on childcare?

Anna Gromada and Dominic Richardson - UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti

This report published by UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti, ranks countries across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU) based on their national childcare and parental leave policies. These policies include the accessibility, affordability and quality of childcare for children between birth and school age. The report notes that COVID-19-related closures of childcare facilities have pushed families of young children into further difficult circumstances. Many parents have been struggling to balance childcare and the responsibilities of their employment, while others have lost their jobs entirely.

The research brief offers guidance on how governments and the private sector can build on their childcare and parental leave policies, including through:

  • A mix of paid maternity, paternity and parental leave for mothers and fathers in the prenatal period and the first full year of a child’s life;
  • Parental leave that is gender-sensitive and gender-equitable to ensure neither parent is overburdened with home care;
  • Leave that is available to full-time staff and those in non-standard forms of employment, such as part-time, and support that includes costs related to birth and parental care for parents in other life circumstances, such as the uninsured;
  • Affordable childcare that starts at the end of parental leave, so there is no gap in available support;
  • Accessible, flexible and affordable quality childcare available to all children irrespective of family circumstances;
  • Publicly provided and regulated childcare to facilitate access to low-income families and ensure standards in provision;
  • Investment in the childcare workforce, their qualifications and their working conditions, to encourage the highest possible standards;
  • Encouragement of employers to provide inclusive and gender-sensitive paid leave entitlements, flexible work arrangements and childcare support systems; and
  • Alignment of childcare services with other family care policies, such as universal child benefits, to reduce the risk of children’s existing inequalities being replicated in public childcare settings.

View report microsite here.

Listen to podcast episode here.