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Women, Work, and Early Childhood

"If you're never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances." —Julia Sorel


The 4th UNESCO Policy Brief on Early Childhood, "Women, Work, and Early Childhood: The Nexus in Developed and Developing Countries", explores the relationship between female employment and the funding of early childhood services. It observes that "family benefits and services for parents with young children in industrialized countries have developed in tandem with increased female participation in the labour market." The brief goes on to observe that the same relationship may not occur as female employment increases in developing countries. The brief argues that this has to do with the rise in "perceived demand". When women step into wage paying jobs requiring them to leave the home, there is a perceived demand for early childhood services which is, to some degree, responded to from the public purse. On the other hand, the unpaid work of women in their homes or neighborhoods, though requiring help with child care just as much as paid employment, does not carry a perceived demand for child care. In developed countries, the great increases in female employment have occurred primarily in the paid out-side the home category, "while in developing countries, especially in Asia-Pacific and in Africa, most are assumed to have contributing/unpaid family worker status." As a result public support for early childhood services may not be seen as a high priority.

To read this policy brief, as well as the first three, go to

UNESCO is a member of the World Forum Alliance supporting the planning and promotion of the World Forum on Early Care and Education. Other members of the World Forum Alliance include NAEYC, the World Bank, Australian Early Childhood Council, Pacific Preschool Council, and Canadian Child Care Federation. For a complete list of World Forum Alliance members, and to learn more about the 2003 World Forum in Mexico, go to

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