Chile has made major strides in reducing national poverty, with 62% of the population holding a secure job. Social and educational policies have increased the number of mothers at work, with fewer people to take care of children. The need for childcare and afterschool programs in Chile has become a key focus for decreasing poverty rates in female-headed households. The government and nonprofit programs have stepped in to make crucial childcare reforms in Chile.

Poverty Trap For Female-Headed Households

Of the 49% of Chileans who were unemployed in 2011, a disproportionate amount were women. Female-headed households make up 51% of households below the poverty line. The tremendous obligation of Chilean women to raise their children is a full-time job. Many mothers are unable to seek employment because of a lack of childcare resources and services, increasing the rates of poverty in female-headed households

Chilean Education Reforms

In 2013, the Chilean government passed a law making kindergarten nationally accessible to all children. Previously parents had to pay to enroll their students in school at six years old. The law helped alleviate stress from many mothers and increased employment rates.

In efforts to equitize and optimize access for Chilean children to quality education, the government passed the Inclusion Law in 2015, making any for-profit ambition and action from government-funded schools illegal. The law had positive effects; a study conducted in 2017 showed that 85% of students in Chile were accepted to “one of their preferred schools.”

After the enactment of these two laws, public schools became an accessible form of childcare for struggling mothers. This allowed them time to seek employment. Parents can now send their children to their desired schools affordably and close to home.

Chile Grows With You Program

The youth support and care program Chile Grows With You was enacted in 2009 during the first female presidency of Michelle Bachelet. Chile Grows with You provides intersectional childcare, nutrition, health and hygiene services to help nurture Chilean children’s psychological development. The childcare programs and outlets fit various social and developmental needs of students.

Bachelet’s push for reform of past childcare services and policies is the reason why all Chilean children from ages zero to six are entitled to childcare and healthcare services, regardless of socioeconomic status or disability. Although the program is open to all, it specifically seeks to help families in the lowest socioeconomic bracket of Chile. This gives struggling, low-income families access to childcare, education and healthcare systems.

Chile Grows With You Childcare Reforms

Chile Grows With You guarantees free access to nursery school for children two to six years old and provides additional childcare hours as needed to full-time mothers and caregivers.

For children too young for nursery school (under two years old), the program provides free access to daycare centers for mothers or caregivers lacking the financial means to leave work to care for their infant.

Chilean children with disabilities are also protected under the program. President Bachelet increased access to healthcare and childcare services for children who show signs of mental and physical disabilities in their early youth.

A New Life For Chilean Mothers and Children

Since the implementation of Chile Grows With You, over 60% of families of the lowest socioeconomic status have been able to gain access to free childcare programs and services, directly impacting female-headed households by giving women more time to attain education and employment.

While poverty in Chile remains an issue, particularly in female-headed households, the government and Chile Grows With You are working to make a positive change. Chilean mothers raising young children have been able to take small steps, turning over major strides through Chile Grows With You; pulling themselves and their children out of poverty. Government-provided childcare programs and services are not only helpful for struggling parents — they are an inspiration for impoverished Chilean children.

– Nicolettea Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr