POLICY BRIEF: PRELIMINARY FINDINGS
AFFORDABLE DAYCARE TO EMPOWER INDIAN WOMEN
The provision of affordable and reliable daycare services is a potentially important policy lever for reducing gender inequality, improving health and socioeconomic well being, and empowering women. We are using a cluster-randomized trial to evaluate the effect of a community-based daycare program on the health and socioeconomic well-being of 3177 women and their children living in rural Rajasthan, India.
In 2015, 160 village hamlets were randomly allocated to the establishment of a day care center (treatment) or not (control). A first post-intervention survey was completed in 2016. Roughly eight months after the daycares were established, 41% of women in hamlets offered a daycare were making use of them. Preliminary analyses suggest there was evidence for a modest increase in the probability of working year round and a decrease in time spent on childcare. Continued follow-up will allow us to examine if the short-term effects observed are sustained, and whether access to daycare affects other outcomes, such as children’s nutritional status and women’s empowerment, in the medium-term.
The countries of South Asia rank among the lowest in the world in terms of women’s economic participation. Data from the International Labour Organization shows that women’s participation rates slid from 37 percent to 27 percent between 2005 to 2012, largely because rural women were dropping out of the work force. According to McKinsey and Co.’s 2015 Power of Parity report, India has the greatest potential for additional economic growth from advancing women’s equality. However, potential barriers to women’s economic participation include patriarchal social norms that restrict women’s educational and economic achievement, limited employment opportunities, and inadequate access to services to alleviate the demands imposed by unpaid care work.
The provision of affordable and reliable daycare services is a potentially important policy lever for reducing gender inequality, improving health and socioeconomic well being, and empowering women. For mothers, access to daycare might reduce barriers to labor force entry and generate additional economic opportunities, which is one of the building blocks for empowerment . The provision of daycare may also benefit children and adolescents, particularly girls, by removing the responsibility of caring for younger children, which limits educational opportunities. Under-nutrition and illiteracy remain challenges in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), especially India , and daycare programs could also improve children’s health and development outcomes through the provision of meals and learning programs.
(Study registration and pre-analysis plan) Agarwal, Parul et al. 2017. "The effect of affordable daycare on health and economic well-being over the life course in India: A cluster-randomized impact evaluation study." AEA RCT Registry. February 22.
(Research protocol) Nandi, Maloney et al. 2016. "The effect of an affordable daycare program on health and economic well-being in Rajasthan, India: protocol for a cluster-randomized impact evaluation study." BMC Public Health. June 9, 16:490. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3176-9.
Richardson, Nandi et al. 2017. "Are work demands associated with mental distress? Evidence from women in rural India." Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. doi: 10.1007/s00127-017-1448-z. [Epub ahead of print].