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Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master's thesis
Title Changing childcare demands due to Covid-19 regulations: Impact on maternal employment and household food security, in South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2022
Background: Women traditionally bear the brunt of unpaid care work, however, with the everincreasing population and struggling economy, their role in the economy has become more
significant. Despite more women entering the labour market, they are still responsible for the majority
of unpaid care work. The Coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to the
restriction of childcare services and school closures around the world, the increased childcare
demands have fallen disproportionately on women. Women play an integral role in household food
security through their reproductive and productive responsibilities. Their reproductive responsibilities
refer to their care and domestic duties such as sourcing, preparing and serving food and caring for
children. Their productive responsibilities refer to their paid work in the community which has an
effect on their household resources for food.
Methods: This study investigated the association between the government responses of
COVID-19 and childcare, maternal employment, and household food security in South Africa, during
June 2020 using data from the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey
(NIDS-CRAM) . The NIDS-CRAM is a nationally representative sample of the South African
population, that focusses on the socio-economic effects of the pandemic. Descriptive and
multivariate analyses were conducted with a sample of 1664 women who had at least a child (<18
years old) in their care during June 2020.
Results: More than a third of the mothers did not work in June 2020 (68%). Forty three
percent of the mothers had increased childcare demands which impacted their ability to work. About
1 in 2 households ran out of money to buy food (45%). Mothers who reported that they were
unemployed, and childcare affected their ability to work had increased odds of running out of money
to buy food in June 2020 (OR=1.60, p=0.000). Women who reported that government grants were
their main source of income, had increased odds of running out of money for food (OR=1.57,
p=0.001). The number of children in the household also increased the odds of the household running
out of money for food (OR=1.10; p=0.030)
Conclusion: Increased childcare demands limited women’s ability to work or search for work
during the lockdown. We established that mothers whose work was affected by increased childcare
demands were more likely to run out of money for food. Therefore, we can conclude that childcare
demands impact household food security. The risk of household food security increased with the age
and number of children in care. Women who reported that government grants were their main source
of income have increased odds of running out of money for food. We can therefore conclude that
social protection grants are insufficient to protect household food security.
Recommendation: The gender policy framework should incorporate programmes directly
targeted at men, as a pathway for gender mainstreaming. Education and training on the importance
Stellenbosch University
of sharing the burden of unpaid care work can affect change in traditional gender roles.
Furthermore, we also recommend that food security be prioritised in social development
policies and that more resources are put towards social protection.

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