The enrolment of nearly four million children in Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres could open up job opportunities for over 450 000 women in South Africa.
According to the 2021 Women’s Report issued by the University of Stellenbosch Business School, registering children under the age of six at ECD centres would not only help in equipping children to reach their full potential but also be one of the most effective ways of creating new jobs in the “care economy”.
The report compiled by Laura Brooks, a development economist and Senior Manager ECD Expansion & Financing Support at Ilifa Labantwana, revealed that less than 40% of South African children under six were enrolled at ECD centres.
Brooks, in her report, cites that an estimated 300 000 people are employed in early childhood care and education, 95% of them women, serving approximately 2.5 million children. These ECD centres are mostly operating in the informal and non-profit sector.
“For each woman who works in caring for children, whether as a child- minder or day mother in a private home or community facility or working in a formal ECD centre, another six to 10 women are able to take up full-time employment,” said Brooks.
She said that increased investment in ECD care would “deliver a triple social and economic benefit”.
“Firstly by promoting young children’s development and capacity for learning in formal schooling; secondly, enabling greater participation by women in the workforce; and third, by creating more and better-paid jobs in the care economy,” Brooks added.
However, the economist urged that the government should shift its notion that ECD was a social welfare service but rather a socio-economic development opportunity to grow it and make it more sustainable.
“This will require an urgent overhaul of the regulatory framework and excessive red tape, which currently excludes rather than enables providers of this vital service. State funding of early childhood care and education is minimal and needs to be greatly increased – this would secure better conditions and meaningful livelihoods for workers and in turn improve the quality of services provided to children,” she said.
ECD’s are exclusively provided in the private and non-profit sector, by NGOs and private individuals, unlike in basic education. To register for government funding support meant a lot of red tape, and in most cases, centres through the process were dubbed not eligible.
The government funding rate is at R17 per child per day, of which only 30% can be used for salaries, and the subsidy reaches only about 620 000 children, less than 25% of the children reported to be accessing ECD programmes.