ISLAMABAD: International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, surveyed 140 employers in Pakistan and found that 27% offer childcare support to their employees. Among those that offer childcare, almost all report positive outcomes for businesses, employees, and society.
Participating employers, including 13 companies that joined an IFC-led peer-learning collaboration and made commitments to become more family-friendly employers, cited improvements in employee retention and productivity, even in the midst of COVID-19. However, 48% of employers that do not provide childcare support and were surveyed said they do not see the need and/or benefit of doing so, pointing to low levels of awareness about the business case for employer-supported childcare.
This research and the collaboration among employers in Pakistan are part of an initiative led by IFC and the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) focused on advancing women’s labour force participation by increasing employers’ awareness of the business case and accelerating the implementation of family-friendly workplace measures such as childcare.
Increasing women’s employment is one of Pakistan’s national development goals. In 2020, according to data from the International Labour Organization, less than 23% of Pakistani women of working age were part of the labour force, the lowest rate in the region and one of the lowest in the world. Raising this rate in line with the country’s development objectives will require cross-sector collaboration and approaches, including a focus on employer-supported childcare, paid maternity and paternity leave, flexible work arrangements, safe transportation, and other family-friendly policies.
“Despite the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses, these employers found that creating family-friendly workplaces was critical to protect the well-being of workers as well as ensure business continuity,” said Shabana Khawar, IFC’s Principal Country Officer for Pakistan. “IFC’s research in Pakistan and around the world shows that significant opportunity exists for the private sector when leaders view childcare and other family-friendly policies as an investment rather than a cost,” she added.
According to Ehsan Malik, PBC’s CEO, “In Pakistan, where women do 90% of unpaid care work, access to affordable childcare is critical for the country’s future development and also for business productivity. PBC is happy to work with its member companies and other organizations to support women in the workforce.”
The reports provide research data, examples, lessons learned, and recommendations for both the public and private sector in Pakistan and can help policymakers and the business sector take necessary action to ensure gender equality in the workplace. Tackling Childcare Pakistan is part of a broader effort by PBC, IFC, and the Government of Canada, which provided funding for the initiative, to address gender gaps in employment and identify how the public and private sectors can better collaborate to lower barriers to female employment through childcare and other family-friendly policies.
IFC — a member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work in more than 100 countries, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries. In the fiscal year 2020, we invested $22 billion in private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.