Factoring role of Grandparents in Child Care Policies..

Josefina Posadas writes this interesting article on designing childcare policies.

The cenral issue is to encourgae women to remain in labor force. Most women quit labor force post children as there is little support to take care of children. Hence, the need for child care policies.  However, Posedas  says most such policies ignore the role of grandparents/relatives in upbringing children:

Formal child care services can expand women’s economic opportunities and promote equity through early childhood
development. However, academics and policy makers often overlook the role of relatives as child care providers. This note discusses how grandparent-provided child care can be factored into child care policies in the context of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Omitting the role of relatives when estimating costs and benefits of child care programs can give biased and incomplete results that might even reverse certain programs. The focus of this note is on the opportunity cost of relatives—particularly grandparents—who care for children. Not just governments spend on child care programs —grandparents spend considerable time caring for grandchildren. Depending on their labor market status and work history, grandparents’ opportunity cost could be high or low; governments should factor in such costs when evaluating programs. The Netherlands and the United Kingdom are experimenting with policies that formally support grandparent-provided child care.

Interestingly, in many developed countries grandparents do take care of children. I thought this was mainly an Asian phenomenon:

Informal care is defined as generally unregulated care that is  arranged by the parent in the child’s home or elsewhere and is provided by relatives, friends, neighbors, babysitters, or nannies. Informal child care is widespread (figure 1); even in  countries such as the Netherlands, more than half of children  under age two are in informal care.

…For example, grandparents provide almost half  of the informal care for U.S. children, and nonrelatives care  for about 30 percent (figure 2). Figures are even more striking  in Australia: grandparents care for 80 percent of children under age three. In Belgium, Greece, and Italy, about half of  grandmothers between ages 50 and 65 regularly care for  grandchildren at least once a week (Zamarro 2011). In the United States, more families rely on grandparents  and fewer use nannies (Posadas and Vidal-Fernández 2012)  despite an increase in the supply of formal child care and the  introduction of subsidies and universal child care programs  in some states (Cascio 2009; Fitzpatrick 2010).

She points to several issues which policymakers should consider designing these policies:

  • No free lunch
  • Complements or substitutes? 
  • Crowding-out effect. 
  • Grandmothers’ low opportunity cost
  • More comprehensive data

Nice different kind of reading…

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