If the number of kindergartens in the regions grows by 10%, then 270,000 women in Ukraine will be able to get a job after having a baby, according to research conducted by the Centre for Economic Strategy.

In Ukraine, the female labour force participation is much lower than the level of men’s participation. This happens due to many factors, including a woman’s own reluctance or unwillingness to work, as well as other aspects that arise against her own will. Among them is the low availability of pre-school education, which means both the lack of places in kindergartens and the low quality of services provided. Our calculations and the experience of other countries show that the increase in preschool enrolment is positively related to women’s economic activity.

Last year’s analysis of the causes of unequal labour force participation of women and men in Ukraine, which was also conducted by the Centre for Economic Strategy analysts, showed that the main obstacle for a mother to find a job is the lack of alternatives to childcare.

“By low access to pre-school education, we mean both the lack of places in kindergartens and the low quality of services provided. Our calculations and the experience of other countries show that an increase in the enrolment of children in preschool education has a positive effect on female economic activity,” the authors of the research say.

Experts believe that the average increase in pre-school enrolment in a region will cause an increase in female labour force participation from 57.5% to 58.9–59.3%, or by 209,500 to 269,300 women. Although we assessed the level of economic activity of women aged 15-70 years (i.e., not only young mothers), the level of positive relations is significant. Additional employment could potentially bring from UAH 46.2 billion to UAH 59.4 billion of extra GDP per year.

Researchers outlined key problems and solutions as follows:

  1. The lack of places in pre-school institutions. We propose introducing a “Money follows the child” mechanism in all regions of Ukraine. This will ensure more even coverage of children in institutions of various forms of ownership because this mechanism can provide funding from the state budget to private kindergartens, which invest in creating the number of places on their own initiative, freeing up state resources. We recommend further facilitating the process of opening a private kindergarten by simplifying very strict rules on food and premises. We propose developing a mechanism for enrolling more children than the number of available places, given that a certain number of kids will not attend kindergarten. A low co-payment by well-to-do parents may also motivate parents to apply for removing a child from an institution while he or she does not attend it, as well as to create a resource to improve the kindergarten’s facilities without informal fundraising.
  2. A long queue for enrolment in kindergarten. The introduction of an electronic queue for enrolment in kindergarten with a clear notification of principals about the queue progress due to a child’s enrolment in another kindergarten. The problem is closely related to the first one.
  3. Low quality of educational services provided. To improve the quality of qualifications, we consider it expedient to reform the wage system in municipal institutions. In particular, the problem of low wages arising in connection with a unified wage tariff system has long required a solution. Since at present the functions of a pre-school teacher can be performed by technical staff, we offer to provide an opportunity to receive short-run pedagogical education, and thereby reduce the time spent on obtaining higher education. Thus, educated employees will be more motivated to work in kindergartens.
  4. Poor quality of meals. Abolition of strict standards and/or centralised development of several daily norms of food intake will make meals more inclusive. Food prices should be determined by consensus between parents and school principals, and all associated costs should be transparent. Parents should have access to kitchen premises and be able to control the quality of food and products.
  5. Low-quality facilities and lack of educational materials. In our opinion, municipal kindergartens should legalise the payment by parents of a small additional tuition fee, since such payments are still made, but informally and non-transparently. Shadow funds are used inefficiently, so legal payments with clear reporting of expenditures are advisable. Such payments must be affordable for the family budget because it can have the opposite effect when a woman will be more financially motivated to stay at home with a child than to go to work.

In conclusion, the authors of the research note that all the listed problems are the result of insufficient funding as kindergartens receive funds from local budgets, and there is a difference in funding per child across regions.

Source: Centre for Economic Strategy

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