National Conference on Business Responsibility for Childcare in Workplaces

National Conference on Business Responsibility for Childcare in Workplaces

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Children’s right to food, education, and protection are inextricably linked to parents’ livelihoods. The implications are especially alarming for those families who are engaged in either daily wage or low-skilled production jobs and for whom childcare forms a primary expenditure. Thus, business practices have a direct and material impact on children’s right to equitable opportunities for a better future. Children are affected through business activities as a part of the communities they live in, as family members of the employees, as young workers, and also as consumers; the impact of business on children and child rights is multifarious. A study conducted by Cividep India has shown that businesses that adopt worker friendly initiatives like crèches have a higher rate of worker retention in business environments with chronically high attrition rates1.

Despite these long-standing concerns, it is only recently that the international community has woken up to the reality of the impact of business on human rights. However, a child rights perspective is yet to become a significant part of this movement in influencing policy and action towards promoting sustainable and inclusive business practices.

The responsibility of businesses towards children has until recently been understood as efforts to end child labour in their operations and their supply chains. While eradication of child labour is of utmost importance, it is necessary to recognise that working conditions in farms and factories employing adult labour also affect children directly and indirectly. Precarious work, low wages, lack of social security, and lack of adequate child care facilities negatively impact children’s health, wellbeing and eventually their social and economic opportunities.

The policy framework in India with respect to maternity and childcare rights is quite progressive. The Factories Act, 1948, mandates that every factory with more than 40 female employees must provide for space, facilities, and expertise for a childcare center within the factory premises. More recently, the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2016 provides for 26 weeks of paid maternity leave to expectant mothers and also makes crèches a compulsory facility to be provided by all employers having more than 30 female employees or 50 employees, whichever is lesser, within 500 meters of the mother’s workspace.

However, implementation lags far behind this progressive policy on maternity and child(care) rights. As past studies have shown, most garment factories, despite being workplaces employing a large number of women, do not have good quality childcare facilities2 and this is one of the main reasons why most women do not avail the maternity benefits that there are eligible for. As a result many women quit their jobs to take care of their children. This leads to women missing out on seniority benefits and gratuity among other entitlements, thereby affecting their long-term earning potential and their families’ financial conditions. Our research also describes the various ways in which garment workers end up taking care of their children, many of which are again a drain on their meager monthly earnings3.The proposed conference seeks to focus on business responsibility of child care in Indian workplaces, especially in sectors such as garments, leather, tea and coffee estates which are often a part of global supply chains. The conference will bring together academics, trade unions, child rights activists and experts, civil society organisations as well as businesses in order to assess the state of child care in workplaces, identify problems, and recommend remedial action going forward from the sound legislative principles that have already been developed.

  1. http://cividep.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/childcare-in-bangalores-apparel-industry_0-29.pdf
     
  2. http://cividep.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/childcare-in-bangalores-apparel-industry_0-29.pdf
     
  3. http://cividep.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/needs-assessment-report-web-16.pdf

Date: October 24th, 2017
Venue: Marigold, Habitat World, at India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110003

Information:

Shalini Yog
Deputy Director
E: shalini.yog@in.boell.org
T: +91 11 2685 4405