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The findings > Thematic Studies> ECCD>Part 2
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II. Changing Demographic, Economic, Social and Political Contexts
 
It is impossible to understand changes in the field of early childhood care and development unless attention is given to the broader context in which those changes are occurring. This document cannot pretend to provide a detailed description and analysis of changing contexts nor of their affects on the status of children and the evolution of early childhood care and development programmes during the 1990s. It can, however, highlight a number of trends and shifts in order to serve as a reminder that changes unrelated to anything that occurred at Jomtien are likely to have had as much, or more, impact on ECCD, for good and ill, than the World Conference and the ensuing activities could hope to have. Accordingly, it seems wise to celebrate modest advances and to be humble with respect to expectations.
 
A. Continuing demographic, economic, social and political shifts
 

At the outset of the decade, most of the major trends weighing heavily on early childhood care and development in the 1990s were visible, some with a long life, all varying from place to place. For instance:

Industrialisation continues, accompanied by internal migration and urbanisation. With these shifts have come important changes in family structure and composition, usually a reduction in extended families and an increase in nuclear and one-parent families. Industrial employment makes it more difficult to combine work and parenting roles than agrarian employment. These changes, together with the crowded and insecure conditions of cities create new demands for extra-domestic childcare and motivate changes in approaches to childcare and childrearing.

Declining birth rates in some countries have opened opportunities for new educational initiatives as the numbers of children to be attended to prior to school entry (and in some cases now at the primary school level) diminish. Declining infant mortality rates still offset declining birth rates in some countries but have also pushed societies to pay more attention to the education and development of young children who now survive, but in often deplorable conditions, negatively affecting development.

Scientific and technological changes in communications, travel, health, and other fields, have helped to change public awareness, are providing new options for promoting and fostering ECCD, and also present challenges to childrearing as we enter the twenty-first century.

Globalisation and the turn toward market economies which gained momentum in the 1980s, are accompanied by increases in levels of poverty and in economic and social inequalities. To try and counter this tendency, governments and international organisations have been pushed to support "compensatory" programmes, among which figure many ECCD programmes. There is as well a growing concern about changing values linked to globalisation, leading to calls in some countries for new initiatives to counter the advance of consumerism and individualism, beginning in the early years.

The mobilisation and emancipation of women, beginning in earnest in the 1970s, has helped to foster increasing participation by women in the paid labour force, creating new demands for programmes of early childhood care.

B. The 1990s

During the decade of the 1990s, some of the above tendencies intensified and several new major developments appeared with potential affects on early childhood:

1. The technological revolution intensified.

2. The pace of globalisation picked up, accompanied not only by increases in inequality, poverty, exclusion and "compensatory" programs, but also by growth in employment in the informal sector (where employees do not have access to childcare benefits sometimes given in the formal sector). The ability of low income populations to buy services has been further reduced.

3. Globalisation has also helped to drive a redefinition of the role of the state, with implications for how all social programmes are handled, including ECCD. Budgeting processes have been affected.

4. Internal strife and civil wars have increased in number, accompanied by displacement from homes for many people and sometimes by separation of children from their families.

5. Accelerated movement toward democracy has occurred in some areas but has receded in others, affecting priorities and policies.

6. The Soviet Union broke up and with it has come a decline of the socialist model which has placed considerable emphasis on providing a particular kind of institutionalised child care.

7. The process of decentralisation has accelerated in many countries.

8. A major blip in the pace of economic development occurred in the Asian region provoking some rethinking.

9. The ecology movement gained momentum

10. The pandemic of HIV/AIDS has reached disastrous levels in some countries, particularly those within Sub-Saharan Africa.

 
All of the above have had important concomitant effects on the composition and structure of families, on childrearing patterns and practices, on the welfare and quality of life of children, and on policies and programmes intended to improve that quality of life. In the survey of knowledgeable people, frequent reference was made to poverty, unemployment, economic crises and adjustments, inequality, erosion of social values and dislocation associated with conflict as barriers to the advance of ECCD.
 
These effects differ from place to place. There are immense differences in the timing and incidence of particular trends and of conditions in particular countries, with accompanying differences in their influence on early childhood care and development, both across and within countries of the "Majority World". For instance, it is difficult to discuss in the same tense and voice ECCD programmes in Eastern Europe (especially countries of the exSoviet Union) and in the African sub continent. Most countries in both regions are struggling to construct "new" identities while preserving traditions, and both are plagued by major economic problems, but the starting points are very different, the cultures are worlds apart, and the particular conditions (e.g., the relative presence of HIV/AIDS) make it difficult to include the two regions in the same conversation. It does not make much sense to try and compare directly ECCD programmes in China or India with those in, let us say, Niue (population approximately 2,000) or even Jamaica (population about two million). The current state of play in Afghanistan (with an Under 5 mortality rate above 250, a per capita GNP per capita of less than US$250, and a traditional theocracy) or Angola (U5MR = 292, GNP = $270, continuing civil disruption) makes it difficult to bring them together in the same document with, for instance, Singapore (U5MR = 4; GNP = $30,550 or Chile (U5MR = 13; GNP = $4,860). Clearly, generalisations must be tempered. Templates and formulas and the search for a unique and magical solution must be avoided. Against this background of shifts in demographic, socio-economic and geo-political contexts, and with the caveat against generalisation in mind, we turn now to an examination of how ECCD has changed since Jomtien.
 
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