The View From Taft

I would like to laud the House of Representatives, which on Sept. 4 of this year approved on third and final reading House Bill 4113. The bill, principally authored by Rep. Emmeline Aglipay Villar, grants paid maternity leave of 100 days, up from the former 60 days (78 days for mothers who had caesarian delivery). But what’s a mother to do from the 101th day onwards? What comes after maternity leave?
After giving birth, a lot of Filipina employees face this dilemma. Whatever the childcare situation — no parent, both parents working, single parent working, no grandparent or sibling available to take care of the child, no nanny — the mother’s major concern is the quality of care her child receives. This concern has a huge impact on the psychological and emotional status of the mother while she is in (or out of) the workplace. Sometimes, she is forced to choose between career and motherhood.
My heart rejoices whenever I hear of companies that support mothers in their careers. As a single mother, I appreciate companies that regard single parents as assets. When I started working after giving birth, I had low self-esteem, so any encouragement I received — a welcoming workplace, recognition for a job done well, promotion — went a long way in boosting my self-esteem and in opening my eyes to career opportunities.
But childcare is not only a mother’s concern. According to the International Labor Organization, “the problems of workers with family responsibilities are aspects of wider issues regarding the family and society which should be taken into account in national policies.”
Therefore, companies have an important role in addressing this concern. Although a few companies in the Philippines have childcare facilities (ABS-CBN and Unilever come to mind), sadly, most local companies do not. And if the bigger companies do not prioritize the provision of childcare centers, what can we expect from micro-, small-, and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs)? Based on 2016 data from the Department of Trade and Industry, MSMEs accounted for 99.57% of total establishments in the Philippines and contributed almost 63.3% of total jobs generated by all types of business establishments that year. This means that many employees are probably earning minimum wage and cannot expect company help in childcare. Juxtapose this information with data from the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines stating that at least 13.9 million Filipinos are single parents who carry the burden of raising their families by themselves.
Obviously, childcare has a tremendous effect on an organization’s profitability. A mother who can focus on her job because she is assured that her child is safe and well-fed will be more productive in and loyal to the company.
According to the International Labor Organization, a company can help parents access childcare by negotiating discounts from childcare facilities for their employees, or by providing suggestions to improve the quality of childcare facilities available in the community. These solutions are being done in Brazil and India. Another solution is for the company to give financial support in the form of a tax shelter for care expense the way one company in Chile does. Another is by providing basic information on available services to employees who are not familiar with the community, or by simply helping workers understand the benefits that are available to them.
Awareness of employers or companies of the physical, emotional, and financial difficulties single parents experience when raising their children is a big step in convincing stakeholders, be they MSMEs or multinational companies, of the need for childcare solutions. This initiative will empower more single mothers to do better in their careers, to provide and express love to their children, and to realize their worth in society.
Maricel S. Balatbat is a lecturer at the Management Organization Department, Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. She teaches Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior.