• The Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency - Mr. John Feakes
• The International Finance Corporation (IFC) Resident Representative, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati & Tuvalu - Mr. Deva De Silva 
• Members of the Diplomatic Corps
• Members from Government
• Invited dignitaries and guests
• Ladies and gentlemen

Ni Sa Bula and a Good afternoon to everyone, 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to be part of an initiative that affects all Fijian families. 

We are gathered here to work towards creating supportive workplaces for women and men. 

High quality and affordable childcare make a difference to employment and productivity. 

A recent report shows only eight percent of working parents surveyed currently use a childcare service. 

This is a sector that needs to be lifted to provide more childcare options in Fiji. Ladies and gentlemen, the Fiji First Government since its first term in office, has prioritized early childhood education. 

And now we look forward to providing an enabling set of policies for the provision of childcare services for children under five years of age.

I welcome the initiative by the International Finance Corporation and the funding support from the Australian government. 

On a related note, my congratulations to PM Scott Morrison and his party on their election win in Australia this past week. And we look forward to more key funding in the “Vuvale” or family initiative, that began with the hosting of PM Morrison and an Australian delegation by our Honorable Prime Minister late last year. 

Partnerships are key drivers of change. I congratulate IFC for driving this initiative in Fiji. And at the same time, I would also like to acknowledge the 7 private sector businesses for your keen participation that has allowed for the completion of this study.

The Fiji First government recognizes the significance of this study. It has taken a proactive step with the recommendation for a National Taskforce on Early Childhood Care. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to inform all of you that the process is already under way for the setup of this taskforce under the National Coordinating Committee on Children chaired by the Ministry of Women, Poverty Alleviation and Social Services. The objective of the taskforce will be to identify and prioritize the government’s response to the growing demand for childcare services.

As we become a more urbanized and wage economy dependent society, our traditional safety net, usually of grandparents or family members is not able to cater for all our childcare needs. 

The traditional safety net of family, usually grandparents, and the wider community providing childcare, is lost in these situations. Here most working parents end up relying on unqualified babysitters to care for their children while at work. 

We need a better understanding the childcare needs of Fijian workers to help private and public sector develop solutions tailored to the local context. This will ensure that more women get in, and stay in, the workforce. This will also help ensure Fijian businesses and the Public Sector are as productive as possible. It will also improve employment opportunities for our young citizens through a more productive and efficient Fiji, this generating more employment through investments and job creation. 

Ladies and gentlemen, as we are talking about tackling childcare, I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight one of the main key responsibilities of my Ministry that is; tackling child labor. 

Parent’s role is to earn a living for their families. Child care is a critically important factor for working parents in making a living. When there is a breakdown of parental roles as providers, and lack of childcare can be a contributing factor to this; sometimes children can be forced into employment or used to earn an income for the family by other means. 

It is important that we study the lack of childcare as a contributing factor to child labor. And if it is a contributing factor, or even more than that, then our work in eradicating child labor, will have to address and provide childcare as a means of alleviating the problem. 

Ladies and gentlemen, studies and our experiences show that quality, affordable, accessible and reliable Child care options help parents work consistently. This provides the optimum conditions for happy workers and happy families to contribute to Fiji’s economy and productivity. 

With the provision of uniform and accessible formal child care services, parents know that their children are being well looked after. 

And this peace of mind, for their precious little ones, means that we have happier, more focused and productive work force. 

It is also a “win-win” situation for employers and employees, as it provides a safety net that is enabling in producing the right conditions for a sustainable work environment for workers, families, employers and for the nation at large. 

Ladies and gentlemen, some other benefits for all stakeholders include:
• Productivity at work.
• feeling organizations support workers and improve their work-life balance.
• workers are less likely to leave their job to pursue other opportunities.
• workers are more likely to return to work after the birth of their child because of the benefits being offered.
• workers consider these types of benefits when making the decision to work for the organization.

Ladies and gentlemen, childcare when provided in an accessible and sustainable manner offers long-lasting social economic and wellness benefits for children and their parents. 

For Employers and Employees. 

For all Fijians and for the Fiji Government. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I sincerely thank and congratulate the International Finance Cooperation, the Australian Government, and our Fijian corporate and employee stakeholders, for their contributions that has enabled the launching today of a new study on how child care responsibilities impact working parents and their employers in Fiji.

Ladies and gentlemen, on that concluding note, I thank you for your attention and patience today. 

I look forward to the results of the study and its role in creating supportive workplaces for all Fijians by meeting their childcare needs.

Thank you Vinaka Vaka Levu