Dr Michelle Hatch with her partner, Jonathan; son, Brandon; and daughter, Lara.

Dr Michelle Hatch with her partner, Jonathan; son, Brandon; and daughter, Lara.

Research Recommends Policy Interventions to Address Childcare Gender Imbalance

Who is responsible for childcare in South Africa, what are the indirect economic costs of childcare and what are the non-economic costs and benefits of childcare? These are the questions that PhD graduate and UKZN’s economics lecturer Dr Michelle Hatch sought to answer through her study titled: An Economic Study of Childcare in South Africa which aims to highlight the economics surrounding single, married and working mothers by exploring both the costs and the benefits to women in South Africa of raising children.

‘My research looks at various family dynamics such as caregivers versus biological parents, the disparity that exists between earnings of men and women in the SA labour market and if the social and foster care grants realistically bridge that gap as well as the differences and similarities between races through the use of the National Income Dynamics Study. In South Africa, we do not have a lot of data on physical and financial childcare that asks these questions and I am hoping to provide the answers through this research,’ said Hatch.

Hatch, who recently graduated with her PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, says she hopes that this quantitative research will make a positive difference in the lives of women, children and families in South Africa.

‘My thesis uses nationally representative longitudinal data to show that women in South Africa carry disproportionate responsibility for the physical care, and often, also the financial care of children. My study then analyses the emotional and economic implications for women with regards to childcare responsibilities. My findings highlight the need for policy interventions that address this gender imbalance in childcare if the socio-economics status of women and children is to be substantively improved,’ explained Hatch.

Hatch is a recipient of the DST-NRF Mandela Initiative Community of Practice on Poverty and Inequality; an NRF sabbatical grant which aims to address the declining number of full-time university academic staff with doctoral degrees.

Hatch’s research has also opened up possibilities for interdisciplinary collaboration as she is keen to partner with colleagues from the School of Law to see which legal aspects of the topic they can explore for research publication. She also plans to publish her research in economic journals.

Words: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph: Supplied