Corporate‐sponsored Child Care: News from Abroad

Publication Date01 Jan 1990
AuthorJudith Bischoff
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour
Child Care:
News from
Judith Bischoff
here is a dear need for child-care provision
and a range of options that employers
can and should consider.
Recently the Child Care Action Committee in Washington,
reported that the lack of child care in businesses costs
the American economy about $3 billion a year, jeopardising
economic growth as more women are needed to enter
the workforce. Declining birth and labour force growth
rates mean that two-thirds of new
will have to be filled
by women between now and 1995.
It is fairly clear that the lack of child care is an impediment
to entering the workforce. For too long child care has been
viewed as a "family problem" or, put another way, as a
politically "soft" issue rather than a "hard" issue such
as profit, productivity, and competition. But in recent years
there has been a growing national and international concern
that will continue in importance with the increase in the
numbers of women working outside the home.
Unfortunately, viewing child care as a family issue
delegates it automatically into a gender-related, private
issue rather than a public one. Politicians and corporations
alike have continued to imagine "family" in terms of the
outmoded Victorian model whereby Father went off to
work and Mother stayed at home with the children.
However, the growing number of working women which
grew from 8.2 million in 1971 to 9.4 million in 1986 is
projected to rise to 46.5 per cent of the UK workforce
by 1990, includes a substantial number of women with
children under the age of five. In fact, this is the fastest
growing segment of the workforce and 50 per cent of these
women will return to the workplace within one year of
the birth of
child. There are comparable figures for other
industrialised countries. Some observers see this as one
of the most phenomenal changes in social and economic
life since 1945.
One factor that has brought increased attention to the
child-care issue is a growing concern regarding the
productivity of employees with dependent children. The
$3 billion figure cited above is based only on child-care-
related absences and does not include estimates of lower
productivity because of parents' worries over a child,
lateness, workforce departures or shorter working days.
Arranging for child care has become a significant concern
for both the private and public sector. According to one
Working parents spend an average of 10 hours, mostly on
the job, locating child care for their children... an average
working days per year is wasted by parents due to this
problem... nearly half of
working parents report that they
have considered quitting their jobs because of childcare
According to the Workplace Nurseries Campaign, London
provisions for the under-fives in Britain is still grossly
inadequate. Local authority provisions for the 3.5 million
under-fives is less than 1 per cent. About 38 per cent
of 3 to 5 year olds attend nursery schools but provision
varies from less than 5 per cent in Gloucestershire,
Dorset, Bromley and Redbridge, to over 50 per cent in
the ILEA, Newham, Manchester and Birmingham. Like
primary schools, the hours of attendance, between 9:30
and 3:30, make it difficult for parents who want/need to
work to make use of such facilities.
Surveys have shown that a majority of parents with
children under five want to work and that almost 50 per
cent of parents with children under three want nursery
places. However, in
it was estimated that an average
of 10.13 day nursery places were provided per 1,000
children under five.
It is difficult to get an accurate count of just how many
workplace nurseries are in existence in Britain. In 1975
there were about 90 workplace nurseries which cared for
less than 0.7 per cent of the under-fives. In corporate
America, there are about 3,000 employers involved in
providing child-care services. According to the National
Employer-supported Childcare Survey, in the US, those
companies that have taken steps to deal with the dilemma
have realised the following bottom-line benefits:
executives interviewed
for the survey, 53 per cent said they thought child
care has a positive effect on reducing absenteeism.

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