Caring for children and women in the Lebanese labor market… a new report from the World Bank

A new World Bank Group report titled “Comprehensive Evaluation of Child Care Services in Lebanon” indicated that “the responsibility of child care is one of the main obstacles preventing women in Lebanon from entering the labor market.” Expanding the reach of child care services, providing them at an affordable cost and of high quality, and aligning with social traditions regarding access to these services, can support women in entering or remaining in the labor market, which will ultimately lead to job creation and economic growth. At the same time, this will contribute to the full development of children.”

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The report highlights “a mismatch between supply and demand, with a gap in the provision of care services for younger children (less than one year old). Child care services are often available through private centers at a high cost, and are concentrated in coastal areas. “These high costs represent a major constraint for families, resulting in reduced demand for child care services.”

The report proposes “actions and measures to expand the reach of high-quality, affordable and universally accessible childcare services along 4 axes: (1) creating an enabling environment for efficient and affordable delivery of quality childcare services, (2) more equitable distribution of the burden of unpaid care work within the family; (3) Enhancing government support to meet care needs within the family, and (4) creating working conditions in the private sector that take into account family conditions in a manner that includes all segments of society.”

The report, which was prepared within the framework of the Women’s Empowerment Program in the Mashreq managed by the World Bank Group, was issued during a launch ceremony organized in cooperation with the Arab Institute for Women at the Lebanese American University, and with the participation of a large number of stakeholders, relevant government agencies, the private sector, and civil society. , donors, development organizations, and academia.

This report analyzes “supply and demand for childcare services for children aged 0 to 3 years.” It reviews the regulatory and institutional framework for child care in Lebanon, identifies the supply side of these services including cost, evaluates child care solutions provided by employers and companies, and deepens understanding of families’ child care needs. It is noteworthy that the National Commission for Lebanese Women is the coordination body for the Women’s Empowerment Program in the Mashreq in Lebanon.

In Lebanon, the percentage of women in the labor force between the ages of 15 and 64 years does not exceed 22%, according to 2022 data issued by the Central Statistics Department.

60% of the mothers surveyed during the preparation of this report indicated that child care is the main reason for them not engaging in work. Other important reasons include low wages and lack of transportation, in addition to social and cultural considerations. Despite the proven benefits of early childhood education, we find that only 10% of child care providers in Lebanon are operating at full capacity.”

While this is partly due, according to the report, to “the decline in household income in the wake of the economic crisis,” it also reflects social traditions that expect women to devote themselves to the role of mothers and housewives. In order to help break gender stereotypes, especially with regard to the role of women in the workplace and the role of men in the family, in September 2023, the World Bank Group and the National Commission for Lebanese Women launched an awareness campaign entitled “Realizing Our Full Potential.” This campaign targets men. Women, employers and companies through video clips supported by evidence and evidence.

At the employer and company level, only 5% of the companies surveyed provide childcare services to their employees. However, the majority of companies implement family-friendly policies through maternity leave, paternity leave, flexible working hours, and work-from-home arrangements. Programs such as the “Leaders for Equality” (L4E) initiative, which was implemented within the framework of the Women’s Empowerment Program in the Mashreq in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, and presented to 10 leading companies, aim to enhance the employment of women in the private sector, by Supporting companies in implementing diversity and inclusion strategies and other supporting policies.”

Jean-Christophe Carré, Regional Director of the Middle East Department at the World Bank, said: “Improving access to high-quality and affordable child care services will lead to increased participation of mothers of young children in the labor market, and thus increase women’s participation in the labor force.” This report presents very important evidence and evidence to advance policy dialogue and identify the reforms necessary to strengthen this sector, with the aim of enhancing women’s economic activity, and benefiting young children in Lebanon as well as society as a whole.”

The discussions that took place during the launch ceremony stressed the need to strengthen dialogue on child care services between the Lebanese government and concerned parties to provide these services at reasonable prices and high quality, and to promote family-friendly policies in both the private and public sectors.

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