According to the Central Statistical Agency (CSA), there are 2.5 million working women of child-bearing age in urban areas in Ethiopia. For many women, they’re the primary or sole breadwinners of their family, which often includes young children. Day-care centres provide women an alternative to hiring maids, relying on family, or having to sacrifice work in order to care for their children. EBR’s adjunct staff writer Meseret Mamo spoke with working mothers, day-care service providers and government officials to learn more about what’s being done to develop and regulate this nascent industry.
For Ethiopia Taye, a 30-year-old single mother of five, caring for her youngest five-month-old child is difficult because she has to work to earn a living. The father of her first four children died seven years ago – and a man who she is no longer dating is the father of her latest child. Running out of options, she decided to keep her baby to a nearby day care, paying ETB600 per month. “I don’t want to pressure my eldest children to assist me; rather, I want them to pursue their education,” she told EBR.
Day-care centres in Addis Ababa provide an alternative for mothers who are desperate to get back to work and find someone to take care of their children. This situation creates business opportunities for places like ABC Day Care, a centre in the Weyira Sefer neighbourhood of Addis Ababa. The centre was established three years ago by Weynishet Chanie, 30, who struggled to find a day-care centre for her first child.
“I used to run a small restaurant that served traditional food and a traditional clothing shop,” Weynishet told EBR. “The time was very difficult [for me] and I was forced to send my first child to a day-care centre when I became a mother of two and it was very difficult to take care of both at a time.” Currently, ABC Day Care, where Ethiopia sends her child, provides service for 22 children with the support of three other nannies.
Spurred by demand, the number of day-care centres in Addis Ababa is increasing. Currently, there are 34 day care service providers in the capital that received a certificate of competency from the Addis Ababa Food, Medicine and Healthcare Administration and Control Authority. Last fiscal year alone, 13 new day-care providers received a certificate of competency from the Authority. Of the overall total, 19 are operating in the Bole District, while eight are located in the Yeka District. On the other hand, none are found in the Gulele District.
These certified centres operate in addition to many day-care centres that function without these competency certificates, according to Tadesse Werdofa, Public Health Specialist at the Authority. He says that the Authority started to issue competency certificates and monitor their performance according to set standards in the 2013/14 fiscal year: “So there could be many day-care centres that provide services without a license,” says Tadesse.
For example, of the five day-care centres operating at the Weyra Sefer Condominium Site located in the Kolfe Keranio District, it is only Weynishet’s daycare that has the competency certificate.
Despite their increasing number, many day care service providers are not affordable for the most desperate mothers. The situation becomes serious when the mother is the sole breadwinner of the family and has no other options for childcare. “The money is too much for me but I can’t afford to hire a nanny either, nor I can sit home and take care of my child,” says Ethiopia. “I earn money by working as daily labourer at different construction sites and often there are times I couldn’t earn enough to feed the family.”
Weynishet charges ETB600 a month for children under the age of one, and ETB500 for those who are older. But she said she is barely surviving in the business. “I pay ETB6,000 a month for the house used as a day-care, pay salary for three nannies and cover other expenses like cleaning costs,” she told EBR. “So I am left with little money at the end of the month. Although I know the service is most important for the poor, I can’t do anything other than making compromises on the due date of the payment.”
It is not only in developing countries like Ethiopia that the cost of day-care is expensive. This is a reality that exists in other countries, like the United States. According to the report by Child Care Aware of America entitled “Parents and High Cost of Childcare”, parents in the USA are spending a larger amount of their income for childcare services. The report, which was published in 2015, also indicates that single parents are particularly burdened by the high costs and spend about half of their income to pay for childcare services.
The report suggests larger government intervention through individual funding and tax incentives for caregivers as a solution. In Ethiopia too, many insist on having government owned day-care centres for poor parents. A 2015 report by Belay Tefera and Hawaz H. Yesus entitled “Childcare Services in the Emerging Day-care Centres of Addis Ababa: Status, Practices, and Lessons”, argues that there is a need for establishing nursery in every woreda because there is a lot of demand for the service.
According to the Central Statistical Agency (CSA), employed women between 15 and 45 years of age who are able to bear children constitute 35.3Pct (2.5 million people) of all employed people in urban areas, which is 7.08 million people. However, the CSA indicates that of the total employed women in urban areas of the country, only 1.4 million are paid employees, which means 44Pct of them work in unpaid positions, such as workers who receive in-kind compensation. The report also states that there are 529,235 working women between 15 to 45 years old in Addis Ababa.
Still the amount of money women receive from their employment is relatively meagre, especially for raising a child. According to the data, 302,452 women receive below ETB500 on a monthly basis and 73.1Pct of the total are paid below ETB2,000 per month. Only 1Pct of the total earn ETB5,000 or more.
Despite this, day-care centres are becoming popular among those who can’t trust to leave their children in the hands of untrained housemaids or nannies. For Adey Haddush, a 29-year-old mother of two, day cares are her preferred choice. She sent her first child to a day care three years ago and she regularly went there until he was ready to attend school. “Day cares are the best option next to raising the child by yourself,” she told EBR. “You can be sure that your children are kept safely. But there are still some improvements that need the government’s attention.”
There was confusion among city officials on deciding under whose mandate day care services should be regulated. Initially, the Addis Ababa Education Bureau was responsible for monitoring the activities of day-care centres. However, since taking care of an infant has nothing to do education and it is rather a health and safety issue, the Addis Ababa Health Bureau took responsibility. In 2013, the responsibility was transferred to the Authority.
Now, officials of the Authority say they are preparing a new standard for all health and health-related establishments in the city, including day cares. According to the new draft standard, the dwelling that houses the day care should be built with concrete and should have separate playing, dinning and bedrooms as well as bathrooms. A separate room for dinning, clothing and bathrooms for nannies are also required. It should also be located far enough from other residences and places with unnecessary noises or contains unhealthy elements like chemicals or dust. A single nanny is required to handle four children below the age of two-and-a-half or manage eight children between the age of two-and-a-half and three years. For children above three years old, a single nanny can handle ten children.
Officials acknowledge that more needs to be done to improve childcare services. In an attempt to better handle the growing number of day-care centres, the government is looking to help the current and future establishments cope with regulations. “Only a few day-care centres fulfil the standards and the safety issues will be resolved when the Authority starts to implement it,” says Tadesse. “However, before enforcing the law, we will give technical support for day cares to abide by the new standards first.” EBR
4th Year • April 16 2016 – May 15 2016 • No. 38