Gender equality, child development and job creation: How to reap the ‘triple dividend’ from early childhood education and care services

This brief synthesizes research findings, analysis and policy recommendations for realizing the triple dividend from early childhood education and care (ECEC) services.

ECEC services have come to occupy an important place on the global policy agenda. While some developed countries have long invested in this area, a growing number of developing countries are following suit. As those who carry out the bulk of childcare—as unpaid caregivers as well as service providers in day-care and preschool institutions—women have a huge stake in this issue. However, the implications for women, as mothers or childcare workers, have been insufficiently reflected in the work of international organizations and many national-level policies that tend to focus mainly on children.

Well-designed investments in ECEC services can have major economic and social pay-offs for families, individuals and societies at large by: (a) facilitating women’s labour force participation, (b) enhancing children’s capabilities and (c) creating decent jobs in the paid care sector. But this triple dividend is not automatic. It needs to be built into service design and delivery.

This brief discusses different mechanisms for financing, delivering and regulating ECEC services and highlights promising avenues for realizing the triple dividend. It argues that the key is high-quality childcare that is available, affordable, accessible and compatible with the needs of working parents.

This brief draws on key findings of UN Women’s flagship report, Progress of the World’s Women 2015–2016.

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