This article, first published in December 2017 in El Pulso, a daily newspaper in Chile, explores the issue of childcare provision in Chile and its impact on women in the workplace.

By: Marcela Salazar

Firm: Munita & Olavarría

Currently, Chilean law only requires companies that employ 20 or more women to provide childcare. What happens with the rest? The answer is that they are not obliged to provide it. There is also insufficient public coverage to allow all women with infants under two to have access to childcare. It should also be considered that there is a significant section of the population that enjoys neither legal childcare benefits nor adequate public coverage. Our country is losing key human resources due to the difficulty that women have in accessing work, solely due to not having safe and appropriate childcare provision. 

The recently approved labour reform, which seeks to strengthen unions, even to the detriment of employees’ rights, did not consider introducing any changes to this situation. Unfortunately, it was not considered to be a priority. A passing reference to family life compatibility pacts (under which workers with family responsibilities can request flexible working conditions), which always require the intervention of unions, seems insufficient and even more so if women do not even have a real chance of taking part in the labour market. 

However, there is still time to improve. The participation rate for women in the workplace in Chile is still very low, and if we truly wish to make the workplace more dynamic, then it must be increased. There is no doubt that this would have a positive effect on our economy. For that purpose, it is essential to allow all working mothers real and effective access to childcare, in order for them to maintain a close relationship with their children while they develop their careers and thus stop passing on the historic social cost of maternity to them.