Administrator Samantha Power at Global Child Care Infrastructure Event

Press Release Shim

Speeches Shim


For Immediate Release

Thursday, April 28, 2022

JENNIFER KLEIN: Administrator Power, I'm going to start with you. Can you talk about USAID's planned contribution to the World Bank's Childcare Incentive Fund, and how does this investment in this fund in childcare infrastructure further USAID's mission more generally?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Great. Well, first, let me just thank Melinda for joining us today and for the investment that the Gates Foundation is going to be making. I'm really excited about that, and thanks to Mari for outlining the World Bank's commitment. It's going to take a village here to redress some of the inequities around the world that are holding so many countries back.  And let me, if I could, just go a little bit personal on the question first and say that when I was privileged in the Obama Administration to be named U.N. Ambassador, I had two kids who were four and one at the time, Declan and Rían, and we moved to New York. I was all excited to join the cabinet of the President of the United States. During a chemical weapons attack within a couple of weeks of arrival, desperate campaign to obtain childcare to deal with all-night negotiations and emergency Security Council sessions, I was able to call my mother and my stepfather and network of friends.

I was able to afford full-time daycare during the day, and then, of course, had to hire somebody to come in and be with my kids late at night if I was at a negotiation. And at that time, Sheryl Sandberg had just published Lean In, and so that was kind of all the talk. And I ran into Secretary Clinton, and she asked me how I was doing, and I said, well you know, I hear this Lean In, and all I can think about is fall down. And she said, “No, no, no, it's not Lean In, it's lean on -- lean on”, and that was the only way, that's cracked the code and be able to do my job, and that's as somebody who was fortunate, again, to be able to afford making these investments, and the differences to whether a woman's potential, or parents potential is unlocked or not, should not be whether or not then they are fortunate to have a certain means.

And we've seen in the pandemic, as others have alluded to, just the disparate impact of COVID on, particularly, working women who have left the workforce. And, I think, the latest data from the ILO, even before the pandemic, was that 606 million women of working age couldn't work or even look for work due to their responsibilities to their families. And, you know, people are making these impossible choices and then we'll have a situation where globally almost 350 million children, more than 40 percent of all kids below primary school age are exposed to unsafe and unstimulating environments due to lack of access to childcare. And we heard that in the video in that powerful description of what that daycare had looked like, but it was affordable, and parents felt they had no choice if they were to earn incomes for their families and go and work, but to put up with conditions like that. And so, expanding access to quality child care is then sensible. 

 And to your core question, which I know is why we're here, I am very pleased, Jen, with your support and support of the Gender Policy Council, and of course, President Biden and the First Lady to be able to contribute on behalf of USAID to the World Bank's Childcare Incentive Fund.  And so, that for USAID, we intend to provide $50 million over five years to the Fund, and that is a reflection of our desire to ensure that families don't have to make those kinds of horrible choices. The choice between, you know, leaving their child in a facility that they would never wish to or to not be able to join the workforce when they have so much potential to be unlocked, and desire, of course, to earn more resources for their kids and their families. Those choices are ones that we want to eliminate around the world working with our partners and innovators like those we're going to be hearing from shortly. 

KLEIN: Thank you so much. Melinda, I'm going to turn to you now. Tell us why you are investing in the World Bank's Childcare Incentive Fund and a little bit more about Business Case for High-Quality Child Care, and, you know, what did the data tell us?

MELINDA FRENCH GATES: Yeah. Well, investing in child care is just sensible to me. And it's, as Administrator Power said, it's personal. It's personal to families that we have a place, an affordable, safe, quality child care for our children, so that our children thrive, and so the parents thrive. And so, when you look at the data, we have 60 million women who are saying they would go back to work if they could find safe, affordable child care. But these women aren't reaching their full potential if they don't have a safe place to put their child. So, our Foundation with five other partners, Hewlett, Hilton, Ford, Echidna, LEGO; are altogether putting in $27 million into this World Bank Fund because we believe child care is so important in terms of economic growth.

If women go back into the labor force at the rate that is predicted, if they have safe, affordable child care, we will add $3 to $4 trillion to the global GDP. That's the size of the economy of India. So, it makes sense, it's sensible policy, and it allows children and parents to thrive. And it supports getting women back into the labor force so that they can do the work that they want to do, no matter whether they are in the informal sector or the formal sector.

KLEIN: And thanks. It is so important to point out both the informal and formal sector.  And again, you know, that sort of layered effect of this is good for child development, and this is good for getting women into the workforce and this is good for economies. Administrator Power, can you tell us more about USAID's overall work on child care? How can we best help countries with our development tools increase women's economic participation by supporting child care infrastructure?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you. Well, first, let me apologize. I gather my video was a little bit choppy in the first round.

KLEIN: It's much better now, though.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Okay. So, I logged off.  It wouldn't be a day without a tech challenge. And a reminder of why we have to get kids back to school and ready to go back to work, and not so reliant on these platforms. The good news is I think we're going to have speakers with us in this event who will be able to speak very personally to the kind of work that we and the Gates Foundation and others are supporting globally. But we're involved in everything from supporting care services for kids already, trying to increase access to early learning opportunities for kids, and then, you know, we have Missions, as you know Jen, in 80 countries, you know, full-fledged Missions and programs in 100 countries, and what we try to do is also advocate for reforms within the care economy. And that includes promoting workers' rights and trying to ensure greater protections there, and trying to press normatively, as well, for the redistribution of unpaid care responsibilities where, of course, we have an awful lot of work to do in our own country as well in that regard. 

I think, just to preview a little bit of what we are hearing from what USAID supports, Mirai Chatterjee is going to tell you about a project in India that provides access to child care for women micro-entrepreneurs. So, if you work as a street vendor, as a domestic worker, artisan, as a farmer, you do it with your kids, and you know, trying not only to think about informal sectors where it may be easier to build those institutions or to press leadership to make those adjustments, but try to ensure that there are startups that meet the needs of those who work in the informal. We have a partner organization, the Self-Employed Women's Association, that allows these micro-entrepreneurs to access quality child care, basic education, and health services, and adequate nutrition. And that also presses for more flexible hours and higher pay.

And what we found, and this is to Melinda's point about the data, the data, the data; but as the evidence so far suggests that access to [unintelligible] child care facilities has actually doubled the income of informal women workers and micro-entrepreneurs. And so, Mirai will get into the details of that, but I think it's pretty inspiring, and again, especially the evidence that allows us now to try to scale this and spread it to other countries. We are aiming at USAID to expand access to affordable and quality child care services up to 10 countries over the next three years.

We know how important it is to grow these kinds of programs at the same time we want it. We don't have infinite resources, so we're trying to concentrate. And then use that data to convince others to join us in making these investments. So, this is, again, to try to enhance the quality of decent work in the care economy for adults and youth. 

And the last thing I'd say is we have a USAID project which is called CATALYZE EduFinance.  And that's about mobilizing actual capital for child care. And so, in South Africa and Rwanda, we have loans that have gone to small-scale businesses. And that's generally -- but that includes social enterprises that crop up to provide early child care and education. And so, there we have an incentive program as well, where centers with better learning outcomes receive benefits in loan repayment and in financing. And of course, again, as Melinda has alluded to, this is worth its weight in gold. The financial return on these kinds of early investments is exponential.

KLEIN: Thanks. You have just so powerfully made the case of why care is essential to women's economic participation and economic growth more generally. So, Melinda, can you sort of pick up? I know you have been long devoted to that. And you might want to say more about the Gates Foundation's work to make that connection. But also take us through the next leap, which is, you know, if A then B -- if A plus B, then B plus C, or -- you know what I mean. Why is women's economic part -- if care is so important to women's economic participation? which we've just heard it is. Why is economic participation so important to the Gates Foundation's development work?

MELINDA FRENCH GATES: Yes.  So, let me, I'm going to just step back and do one piece first.  I want to just build on what Administrator Power said because what I love that she's talking about is this coalition, this coalition of governments like the ones in India, or entrepreneurs, like we saw with Kidogo, USAID's money, the Bank's money. By having -- by working in partnership, we can measure, we can test, we can do innovative financing, and we can scale.  And so, what does that mean? On a personal level, when you go in places in India, you know, you often see a mom with a baby strapped on her back, and maybe she's cooking over a boiling pot of water because she's selling what she's cooking. That's really unsafe for the baby; you get a lot of accidents. You see a lot of adolescents, young adolescent girls with a baby on their hip during the day running around in unsafe places and in traffic with the baby's head kind of bobbling around. But think about what it means for the baby, the adolescent girl, and the mom.  And on the converse side, you get them in safe, affordable child care, that baby can thrive, that adolescent girl can thrive and go to school, that mom can thrive in the work that she wants to do during the day. 

So, you ask the question, why do we care as a Foundation? Well, as a Foundation, we believe that all people should live a healthy life and be able to thrive. And so, women cannot thrive. We learned this during the pandemic; what we always knew to be true that it was in the background; all this unpaid work women do, it became stark. It was right here in our faces. 

And what happened? Women and men stepped back from the labor force. But men have already gone back in at the same rate they were in before the pandemic around the world. And women have not gone back because they don't have a solution for child care. And so, it means their children aren't thriving, the adolescent girls are not thriving, and the women are often not thriving.  And I think we care for humanity, about women and people thriving. And I think we care for our economies, that we get the full benefit of women's participation and their skills.  So, every dollar invested in child care, the return is $7. And as I said, it can be $3 trillion to $4 trillion of global GDP; it's huge.

KLEIN: I know a question for both of you. This has, unfortunately, historically not been at the top of the global agenda. So, which is why today is such a tremendous opportunity. And again, to return to where we started, thank you both for your leadership. What impact do you think today's announcement will have on investment in childcare globally?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I guess I get to go first again. I would just say that I think one of the features of today that Jen, you, and I are maybe a little too close to it, but I don't think we should let go unremarked upon, is that we are making this announcement in conjunction with President Biden's global infrastructure initiative that he announced at the G7 last year. And it gets to, again, some domestic debates that have been had; as you know, what counts is infrastructure. But the fact that gender equity is a pillar in that global infrastructure signature initiative for this President, I think, is important. I also think it sort of gets us, once and for all, I hope, you know, out of this mode, where this is a kind of nice-to-do luxury here. As you know, we can talk about the economic recovery out of COVID and now the economic shocks from Russia's invasion, and that's its own, you know, kind of grown-up conversation over here. And then there's like the care economy over here.

You know, this is right at the heart of, you know, coming out of all of the shocks to the economy that keep getting inflicted on communities around the world. And this is, you know, the ultimate design feature of an economy, as Melinda was just talking about, that puts us in a stronger position to obtain sustainable growth over time. And I am struck that the care sector alone could create 300 million new jobs, you know if we did this right. And I suspect that number will be even higher if we were really scaling this to the extent that is needed. 

So, I come back again to the great point Melinda made about all the people who are coming to the table for this, again, for the United States it's under this rubric of core infrastructure and coming out of this pandemic stronger than we were before. And that is foundational. But we're going to be heading into a G7 here shortly, encouraging governments, other donors, other philanthropic organizations, to increase investments in childcare infrastructure, including by supporting the Fund, again, that Melinda's Foundation and USAID are already investing in. There's now a place to go. If you like the idea, but you're not sure exactly where to channel the resources, I think this is going to be a nice one-stop-shop. 

But we also need to work in the countries where each of us, you know, have teams in the field to encourage additional support from host-country governments because there is a normative and regulatory dimension to this as well, as we talked about at the beginning.  And this is something that, given the financial returns that have been spoken about, there should be strong private sector in this, private sector interest in this initiative. So, I'm hoping, you know, now that it's big and bright and in technicolor and as part of this big launch, that there'll be a bit of a cascade as people who are convinced by this growing body of data understand that it's, of course, the right and the smart thing to do.

MELINDA FRENCH GATES: Yeah, so I'll just build on what Administrator Power said a bit, which is, you know, we had a generation, a quality forum, a worldwide forum about what can we do to really help lift up women, that happened last summer. The world came together and had a series of strands of things to work on. This is one of them. And so, as Administrator Power said, you know, this used to be the side issue or the nice-to-do issue. Well, one of the things that COVID pointed out to us and is that we had a health crisis because of COVID, we had a lot of places where women couldn't go and get health services, and even men, and we had an economic crisis. 

And so, finally, you know, there have been a lot of enlightened men in this conversation over time. But what I would say now is there's also a lot of other men in the conversation. I met with a lot of finance ministers last week in D.C. who are in town around the World Bank meetings. You meet with presidents and prime ministers. They are saying, “Oh, my gosh, we have to have our health system work for human capital, and we got to have good child care and education if we're going to get the most out of our economy.” And so, there's an old saying, never waste a good crisis. I am so glad that coming out of this crisis, we can answer, what do we do? 

And finally, there's a fund where low- and middle-income countries can go to say, how do we scale up all these entrepreneurs in our country? How do we scale up the mobile crashes that are already happening in India? Now, we have an answer to that and a sensible and a smart answer.  And it's just going to get better over time as we measure the data and see what quality looks like and figure out how to scale up even more. So, I'm thrilled that the Biden Administration, which I do think is an enlightened Administration, but many, many others are joining in this because they're seeing the importance for women, for families, men and women, and for their economies. 

MS. KLEIN: Thank you both again for your commitment, for your insights, for your leadership.

Last updated: June 28, 2022

Share This Page