Child-care centres and nurseries have become an essential part of life in most modern families when both parents are working. In Penang, there are 351 childcare centres, 210 of which are registered with the Social Welfare Department and 141 of which are not. Chong Eng, chairman of Penang’s social development committee, stated that childcare centres are in high demand, especially with working parents and when maids were unavailable.
Since March 2013, the Penang state government has been implementing the Penang Childcare Policy and Action Plan, making it the first state government in Malaysia to lay out its strategy to promote universal rights and access to affordable, safe, and high-quality childcare. Local authorities have been monitoring and issuing numerous warnings to unlicensed childcare operators to improve the quality of the care system for children’s well-being in the state.
Since there is a shortage of such centres, the local authorities relax the rules to ease the childcare operators’ registration as many working mothers are in great need of childcare services for their children. Other initiatives include enabling operators to obtain licenses, advocacy campaigns, counselling, and dialogues with the operators to inform them about the registration procedure.
With regulations relaxed, such as discounts on use-conversion of their premises and mandatory rates for parking spaces, and other measures, more operators should register and apply for a licence. Furthermore, the Penang state government has allocated RM300,000 per year for three years to upgrade childcare facilities as part of its efforts to ease the financial burden of the childcare operators and improve the quality of their childcare services.
The availability of more registered childcare centres will encourage increased participation of women in the workforce, and contributes to families’ financial security which in turn provides beneficial benefit to the state’s economy in line with Penang2030 strategic initiative.