Persistent and significant gaps in care services and policies have left hundreds of millions of workers with family responsibilities without adequate protection and support, but making greater investments could create almost 300 million jobs by 2035, according to a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) report.
The report, "Care at work: Investing in care leave and services for a more gender-equal world of work," finds that three in ten women of reproductive age, or 649 million women, have inadequate maternity protection that does not meet the key requirements of the ILO's Maternity Protection Convention, 2000 (No 183).
"In Bangladesh, the labour law provides maternity leave for four months at full pay for a maximum of two children in order to enable women's participation in the workplace. It is also encouraging to know that the government is working to introduce paternity leave," says ILO Bangladesh Country Director Tuomo Poutiainen.
The ILO is in addition supporting the Government of Bangladesh in training skilled caregivers and referring them to decent work employment opportunities in Bangladesh and abroad. ''Investing in the care sector is both an important enabling factor for women's participation in the workplace, and at the same time highly skilled caregiver jobs are an important source of decent work employment accessible to women, which is why ILO supports the initiatives by the Government of Bangladesh in this sector,'' adds Tuomo Poutiainen.
In 2019, the Technical and Madrasah Education Division of the Ministry of Education identified the demand for courses on caregiving with the support of ILO Bangladesh Skills programme. During 2019-21, Bangladesh Technical and Education Board developed qualification packages including learning materials, assessment tools for the caregiving course. In 2021, 94 students enrolled in the NTVQF level-2 caregiving course at various institutions across the country. Furthermore, graduates from caregiving occupations are provided entrepreneurship development training for self-employment.
The convention mandates 14 weeks minimum maternity leave on at least two-thirds of previous earnings, funded by social insurance or public funds. A total of 82 of the 185 countries surveyed for the report did not meet these standards, although "paid maternity leave or maternity protection is a universal human and labour right," the study says.
At the current pace of reform, it will take at least 46 years to achieve minimum maternity leave rights in the countries analysed, which means the relevant target of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals will not be met.
More than 1.2 billion men of prime reproductive age live in countries with no entitlement to paternity leave, although it would help to balance the work and family responsibilities of both mothers and fathers, the report says.
Where there is paternity leave, it remains short – a global average of nine days - creating a large "gender leave gap". The take-up of paternity leave entitlements is also low; a consequence, the report suggests, of low paternity pay, gender norms and policy design.
The report offers a global overview of national laws, policies and practices on care, including maternity, paternity, and parental, child and long-term care.
The need for long-term care services for older persons and those with disabilities has been rising steeply because of increased life expectancy and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We need to re-think the way we provide care policies and services so that they form a continuum of care that provides children with a good start, supports women to stay in employment and prevents families or individuals falling into poverty." said Manuela Tomei, Director, ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department. "Plugging these care gaps should be seen as an investment that not only supports health and livelihoods but fundamental rights, gender equity and greater representation too."