A new report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) offers suggestions for employers and the Government of Fiji to enhance support for working parents.
‘The lack of affordable and accessible childcare services is taking a toll on working parents in Fiji through high rates of absenteeism, lateness, low productivity, exhaustion and stress as they juggle being a parent and working,” said Deva De Silva, IFC’s Resident Representative for Fiji.
The report, Tackling Childcare: The Business Case for Employer Supported Childcare in Fiji, revealed a multitude of issues that cost businesses an average of FJD1,000 annually per employee as a result of lost staff time.
With formal childcare options limited in Fiji and no regulations covering the provision of services for children under five years of age, the report shows only eight per cent of working parents surveyed currently use a childcare service. Most working parents rely on family members or unqualified babysitters to care for their children while at work.
The report also shows the challenge of juggling paid employment and childcare is particularly acute for new mothers. An average of 21 percent of working mothers leave their jobs within a year of returning to work, reflecting a significant loss to business as well as families.
‘This study clearly demonstrates that lack of access to affordable and reliable childcare not only affects early childhood development but also hurts the private and public sector employers, who depend on acquiring and retaining a skilled workforce,’ said John Feakes, Australia’s High Commissioner to Fiji.
The significance of the report as well as one of the recommendations has already been acknowledged by the Government of Fiji:
‘We are moving already […] to set up a national task force on early childhood care and education to identify and prioritise the government’s response to growing demand for childcare services,’ said Parveen Bala, Fiji’s Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations.
The study surveyed over 2,700 working parents in Fiji’s public and private sectors. Seven companies took part in the study: Fiji National Provident Fund; Grand Pacific Hotel; Lyndhurst; Mindpearl Fiji; RCL Services; Vinod Patel; and Westpac Bank Fiji. IFC also surveyed staff from across all government ministries.
Pacific Women supported the survey and its report through IFC’s WINvest Fiji project. The project seeks to close the gender gap in Fiji’s private sector through: company peer learning and dissemination platforms; and firm-level advisory engagements.