Investing in their Babies: Government’s Role in Early Childhood Development

Public investment in Early Childhood Development (ECD) is beneficial not only on an individual level but at a societal level as well. Governments can educate and support vulnerable families by improving the health, nutrition, and educational services provided to infants and young children. This investment will help reduce poverty and inequality and other negative outcomes.

Good for all: ECD benefits everyone

Investing in ECD is one of the best ways a country can  reduce poverty, boost productivity, and create a skilled human capital. Failure to invest in ECD drags countries into undesirable future outcomes such as poor health and educational attainment, economic dependency, violence, crime, substance abuse, and depression. All these negative outcomes add to the cost and burden in society.

Children who were enrolled in ECD programs generally have better health than those who have not. Evidence suggests that healthy individuals are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as using tobacco, alcohol and drugs and obesity. This is turn, lowers the cost of these behaviors on society. Similarly, children who attend ECD are more likely to stay in school longer and perform better. As a result, they are less likely to engage in negative social behaviors such as crime and violence. This benefits not only the individuals but the society as a whole.

ECD programs are particularly useful when they target the most disadvantaged children. These programs can help reduce inequalities and improve a country’s prosperity and development. ECD also helps develop confident, motivated learners who do perform better in the labor market. On the other hand, failing to invest in ECD slows social mobility by passing poverty down through generations.

How can Governments Prioritize ECD

There are a number of packages and interventions that governments can implement that focus on  ECD. These include:

  1. Providing parental support for vulnerable families by educating them on family planning techniques and the importance of early stimulation and development.
  2. Improving families access to healthcare services and nutrient rich foods necessary for children’s growth.
  3. Providing child health services such as immunization programs and providing safe and nutritious diet.
  4. Expanding pre-primary education to allow more children to attend pre-school.


World Bank. 2014. Stepping Up Early Childhood Development: Investing in Young Children for High Returns.
2  World Bank. 2015. Expanding Opportunities for the Next Generation: Early Childhood Development in the Middle East and North Africa.
UNICEF. 2013. Evidence for ECD Investment.
4  OECD. 2011. Investing in high-quality early childhood education and care (ECEC).