Fostering Childcare, Strengthening the Workforce
Asia Society India Centre in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) hosted an insightful discussion on employer supported childcare at the Four Seasons Hotel in Worli, Mumbai. The programme, titled “Fostering Childcare, Strengthening the Workforce”, began with remarks by Ramesh Ramanathan, Head of IFC’s Mumbai office, who set the tone for the following discussion by stressing the importance of bridging the gender gap in the workforce by providing childcare facilities at the workplace. Shalaka Joshi, Gender Lead, South Asia at IFC followed the opening remarks by commenting on IFC’s Tackling Childcare report, and proceeded to place the conversation of employer-supported childcare within the Indian context. Women’s participation in the labor force is a dismal 28%, and only 4% of CEOs in companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange are women. Further, only 17% of GDP in India is provided for by the participation of women, as compared to the worldwide average of over 30%. There is clear disparity in workplace participation between the genders, and one of the defining factors of this is the lack of childcare facilities.
A panel discussion followed with NS Parthasarathy, Vice Chairman, COO & co-founder, Mindtree Limited, Vidya Lakshmi, Head of Human Capital Management (HCM), Goldman Sachs, H.L. Meena, Director (Social Security), Ministry of Labour & Employment, and Priya Krishnan, CEO, Founding Years Learning Solution. Roshika Singh, Employer-Supported Childcare Lead, India at IFC moderated the discussion. Beginning with her own story of how she returned to work as a mother of two children, Vidya Lakshmi shared how Goldman Sachs grew over the years from having established a 20 seat childcare facility at office premises in 2011, to a 90 seat facility today. An interesting observation was how the discussion surrounding childcare has now shifted from solely being focused on “returning mothers” to a more inclusive focus of “working parents”. NS Parthasarathy recounted how initially the childcare facility at Mindtree emerged as an emergency day care centre called “Baby’s Day Out” with about 5 children. Today the facility holds 90 children, and some more are still on the waitlist. Next, HL Meena discussed the several reforms undertaken by the government of India to ensure childcare facilities are provided by employers. When asked about some of the advice that Priya Krishnan gives to employers for childcare facilities, she stated that one of the biggest points of discussion surrounding employer provided childcare is whether parents prefer their children being closer to work, or closer to home. There are several models through which employers can provide childcare facilities. The facility can be in-house, subsidized by the company, or within an existing centre.
Other points of discussion included the return on investment (ROI), where Vidya Lakshmi argued that there are clear tangible metrics to denote that provision of childcare contributes directly to a more productive workforce. NS Parthasarathy countered with his belief that companies should invest in childcare because it is the right thing to do, and not because of metrics like the ROI. HL Meena added that while great policies can be enacted by the government, implementation is the biggest challenge and that through reports like that of IFC, the government can adopt new methods for implementation.
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As reported by Anurag Ram Chandran, Programme Assistant, Asia Society India Centre