Dr. Md Asadul Islam

Tafriha Kamrul Neha

Download Full PDF

Economic solvency is one of the key requirements for every woman to feel empowered, where their employment, in different organisations, can be the best source of money. Hence, women participation in labour force is crucial if they want to be economically solvent and empowered in a male dominated society like Bangladesh as well as they want to contribute more to economic growth of the country.  Women's labor-force participation in Bangladesh is higher than in other South Asian countries, reaching 36.31% in 2019, the highest level since the country's independence in 1971. However, it fell 34.54% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still concerning and can block the rise of women’s participation in the labour force. The reduction of women participation in labour force is also originated from many other reasons such as waiting for government jobs, lack of opportunities, political instability, early marriage, salary discrimination and so on. However, the lack of childcare centres in Bangladesh is another burning reason which is not been highlighted much.

 

 

 Source: World Bank (2021)

Fig 1: Women Labor Force Participation

Women employment can be largely seen in the agriculture and RMG sectors. Although participant in service sector is increasing gradually, many other sectors do not have enough working women in different positions. In this regard, it is not the matter that we do not have capable women to work with; the matter is that many of our women are mothers, who have to ensure their babies are safe while they are in the workplace. Being a mother and a working woman in our country, it is not easy because she has to carry out all her household duties and professional work, which means every day is "double day" for her!

Bangladesh has provided promising results in decreasing the gender gaps in workplaces and it is striving towards fulfilling Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of women empowerment by 2030. But yet, a considerable issue in this scenario is whether we are making sure that our working women are getting what they need to be more productive in work. If you take a close look at the RMG, banking, and education industries of our country, you will notice that there are a vast number of working mothers who are physically in the workplace, but their minds are often indulged in the thought of their babies and small children who are home alone. Interesting point to be noted that in developed countries, the increased number of childcare centers established by government and private initiatives alleviates this crucial tension of working mothers with offspring. Such arrangements are not well-developed in Bangladesh.

 If a female has the qualification, interest, strength, and passion to work, they will not only earn but also add value to the company that would make them empowered, ensuring the fulfilment of children's nutritional needs. In this regard, the absence of childcare centres or even facilities in workplaces discourages females from going to join and work in an organisation. That is hampering our women's individual and social growth, and it has definitely had a negative impact on economic growth. As a result, if proper childcare centres could be established, whether private (profit motive), public (government funded), or individual (organizational), working mothers would be motivated to join workplaces. This facility will also make them more concentrated peacefully and engaged. Hence, the absence of childcare centers is compelling a large portion of human resources, i.e., women, to stay home and remain out of work.

We know that women as mothers are more psychologically attached to their children than fathers. Hence, organisations can be blamed to be responsible for the lack of engagement, efficiency, and performance of working mothers if organisations fail to understand the psychological needs of working mothers. Hence, establishing childcare centres in workplaces in both government and private workplaces is a dire need. Otherwise, the country would not be able to motivate a large percentage of women to join and continue their careers. For example, many women do not return workplaces to continue their role after having children because their workplaces do not provide childcare facilities. There are 10,963 branches (as of May 2022) of the bank, but how many of them have childcare facilities? Moreover, there are more than 4,500 ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh, but how many of them have childcare facilities? The same goes for educational institutions: there are 108 private universities, but how many of them have childcare facilities? A similar scenario exists in the case of telecommunication, pharmaceuticals, toiletries, and other industries in Bangladesh. Even government organisations lag behind in terms of childcare facilities. Hence, if we strive to increase women inclusion in workplaces for better economic prosperity, we need to establish childcare centres on a larger scale.

In contrast to our country’s overall picture regarding childcare facilities, countries like Malaysia have a very promising scenario. Many companies in Malaysia, such as Maxis Berhad, MayBank, Manilife, Sunway Group, BASF Petronas, and so on, have childcare facilities that not only motivate potential women to join but also keep them engaged in work peacefully with full potential and efficiency and retain for a longer time. The Malaysian government is going to make the establishment of childcare centres mandatory in all government offices. Hence, the Malaysian government has provided annual grants amounting to approximately $2.27 million and $6.81 million for 2019 and 2020, respectively, for this purpose. The grant will be increased in the near future to develop the childcare facilities in most government workplaces. Malaysia opened the nation’s first green childcare centre in 2019 that helps children heal from trauma. Furthermore, they have registered private childcare centres available across the key cities that are also reasonable in price with many facilities where many children of working mothers can have safer, entertaining and educative environment. As a result, the inclusion of women in Malaysian workplaces is an envious trend that we can follow.

 Most of our working mothers in Bangladesh have to leave their children to the female domestic workers, who are not well-educated and aware of child rearing. As a result, many children suffer from mental trauma and disease, resulting in long-term emotional and physical problems. We can solve this problem by establishing childcare centers that provide an environment for breastfeeding as well as other facilities for parents to care for their children. Hence, the children's psychological and physical needs can be met while mothers are at work, which will lessen the likelihood that our future generations will experience frequent illness.

Childcare facilities (either private (profit motive) or government or organizational) are also important for single mothers who often lack the aid of their children’s fathers and the inability to keep a domestic worker, which is very expensive. According to research conducted by the psychiatry department of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, 54% of single mothers are living with depression due to mental pressure from workload, economic stress, and social humiliation and so on. Furthermore, due to youngling, they cannot take decision to go out when need it, where their indecision hampers their career and entrepreneurial growth. Moreover, as the trend of single families is increasing in Bangladesh, there is also an augmentation of dual-career couples as well. Dual career couples also require childcare centres more than ever in work settings because parents are always anxious about their children at home.

Overall, it can be argued that it is high time to establish childcare centres across the country for our present and future generations, better women empowerment, and economic prosperity. Childcare centres can be turned into a real scenario in our country if we approach them with proper planning. We have seen that if we have the proper plan, we can implement massive infrastructure, and the Padma Bridge is a very great example of it. To keep up with our development plans, we must fully utilize our capable human resources, i.e., males and females, but it will not be possible to employ all of them with the absence of childcare centers. In this regard, to establish childcare centres across the country, we need mutual cooperation between local government bodies, private organizations, and other sources/donors such as the United Nations, JICA, EDB, and ICRI. Some NGOs and international associations are working towards this goal and have established many childcare centres in Bangladesh. But these are not sufficient! Therefore, all the stakeholders, such as government officials, NGO officials, delegates of international associations, and even parents, especially mothers from different occupations and professions, should be included in this endeavour. Thus, we would be able to establish childcare centres across the country that will definitely increase women participation in the labour force in the workplace and make them empowered while contributing to the country’s continuous growth.

 

References:

BRDC, (2022) Some Organizations that Help Children in Bangladesh. Retrieved from: http://www.bangladeshstudies.org/child_organizations.html

FMT (2022), Childcare centres in govt offices to be made mandatory, says PM. Retrieved from: https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2022/05/01/childcare-centres-in-govt-offices-to-be-made-mandatory-says-pm/

Makchic, (2022) 10 family-friendly companies to work for in Malaysia. Retrieved from: https://www.makchic.com/10-family-friendly-companies-to-work-for-in-malaysia/

Tajmim, T., (2019) 54% of single mothers living in depression. https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/health/54-single-mothers-living-depression

Theglobaleconomy.com (2021) Bangladesh: Female labor force participation, Retrieved from: https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/Bangladesh/ female_labor_force_participation/#:~:text=The%20latest%20value%20from%202020,181%20countries%20is%2049.61%20percent.

The Financial Express (2020), Banks’ branches rise to 10,467. Retrieved from: https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/Economy/Banks-Rural-Branches-Rise-To-10467-1577939972#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20data%20available,countrywide%20as%20of%20November%202019