Access to reliable childcare is critical for parents, particularly mothers, to succeed in their jobs.
Problems with child care and caring for children who are ill is a major source of absenteeism.
Nonetheless, only one company surveyed by Papua New Guinea Business Coalition for Women News (BCFW) in early 2016 reported providing any form of child care assistance to staff. Why is that?
For one, there is a widespread belief in PNG that strong extended family networks mean there will always be someone to mind the children while parents work.
Yet informal interviews with a number of female staff from across BCWF businesses, and a recent discussion at the Coalition Board of Directors, indicates that access to reliable childcare is a challenge for many working women in PNG.
Stacey Sweet, who ran an educational child care center in Lae and is about to open one in Port Moresby, explains the importance of accessible child care for working women.
“Childcare allows women, the opportunity to jump start their careers or continue their current careers. Quality child care gives women peace of mind knowing that their child is developing in a nurturing environment.”
As more Papua New Guineans move to cities for work there is a growing number of parents unable to access safe, trusted and reliable care for pre-school age children or for older children after school.
They may be living away from traditional family support structures or where those family supports cannot be relied upon due to health or social issues.
In the absence of dependable childcare, workers – especially women - are more likely to take time off to care for a sick child or to stand in when family members are unavailable.
Furthermore, any parent who has concerns about the quality of care their children are receiving while they are at work, is almost certainly not able to concentrate and work to their fullest potential.
Both the time away from work and the reduced productivity at work are costly to business.
So, what can businesses do?
In some cases, directly providing child care facilities may pay off. BCFW’s technical partner, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has studied the matter globally and identified some examples of efficient employer-provided child care.
In a cut-flower business in Kenya for example, unplanned leave declined by 25 percent and productivity improved within one year of opening a childcare facility for workers. A garment manufacturer in Vietnam, Nalt Enterprises, found that staff turnover fell by one third after the company established a kindergarten for workers’ children.
Building and running child care centers can be very expensive, however, and is not the core business of most firms.
There are many options for supporting working parents short of directly providing care facilities: paid parental leave; predictable shift patterns; improving access to child care through subsidies or public-private partnerships for child care; employee and community health initiatives that reduce illness; and other creative initiatives to make it easier for families to combine work and care responsibilities.
Such investments can have positive impacts on employee turnover and absenteeism, which can represent potentially big cost savings for employers with respect to low- and high-skilled workers alike.
The BCFW Working Group on Gender-Smart Policies and Practices is working to better understand the demand for childcare services among BCFW member companies and to explore what types of care options might make sense for businesses in PNG.
If this work is of interest to your business contact the PNGBCFW on email@example.com.