Fix the child care crisis

Women need to be able to go to work knowing their children are safe and well cared for, but most families are struggling to find and pay for the child care they need.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the extent to which our economy depends on child care. Schools, camps and most child care facilities have had to close. Parents have had to take on a heavy load of unpaid care work.

This all while balancing paid work at home or in essential services. Some parents are also dealing with an unexpected job loss or reduced work time. There’s no respite in sight.

Families across Canada were already facing a child care crisis. Now, in the middle of a global health crisis, and with the looming threat of a second wave in the fall, parents are not okay.

All families deserve to work knowing their children are safe and well cared for.

We need federal leadership. That requires an immediate fix to the child care crisis.

Child care is about economic justice for women

Access to quality, affordable child care is about economic justice for women. Seventy percent of kids under five have moms working outside the home. Child care makes it possible for women to get a decent job and to support their families. It allows women to build a career, and further their education or skills training.

More than 900,000 parents with children under age 12 have lost their jobs. Many have lost more than 50 percent of their hours since February. Mothers have accounted for well over half (56.7 percent) of these losses. As economies have started to reopen, women are falling behind in employment gains.

The Crisis is Real

Even before COVID-19, there was a significant gap in child care services. Only 25 percent of children under five had access. At the same time, the cost of those limited spaces is astronomical. Our child care costs are among the highest in the world. On average, single parents spend 32 percent of their income on child care – that’s often more than what they spend on housing.

Finding child care is harder for parents with infants or children with special needs. It is hard for those living in Northern, Indigenous or rural communities. Options for parents working shift or non-standard hours are almost nonexistent. Racialized and immigrant women are more likely to be stuck in low-wage, part-time and precarious jobs. High child care costs and lack of spaces leave them with even fewer choices.

Parenting during a pandemic

This crisis has hit working parents hard. Families shouldn’t have to choose between work and their children’s well being. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare society’s gendered expectations. Women often perform the majority of caregiving responsibilities. Parents are not okay. Caregivers are working double, even triple shifts keeping households afloat. Many are having to homeschool while trying to stay on top of work responsibilities. The emotional labour of supporting families through a stressful, uncertain time is considerable.

We can fix the child care crisis

Without safe, affordable child care in place, women won’t be able to go back to work. Canada’s economic recovery plan must include a solution to fix the child care crisis. Before the pandemic, the federal government was on its way. It introduced new child care and early learning agreements with provinces and territories. More recently, it committed $625 million dollars for child care. The federal government will need to increase its spending on child care to at least one percent of GDP. This is the international benchmark on child care spending used by international bodies.

Let’s get this right

You or someone you know – a friend, a relative, a colleague – is struggling right now.No one should have to choose between work and their children’s well being. Women should not have to exit or defer re-entering the workforce because they need to care for their kids. The federal government must work more closely with provinces and territories. This to ensure that the child care sector can safely reopen. Furthermore, it’s time to build a system of high-quality, affordable and inclusive child care. There can be no economic recovery without it.

This requires:

  • Immediate targeted funding to help stabilize regulated child care and ensure a safe and full reopening, increasing the initial commitment of $625 million in federal transfers to $2.5 billion;
  • Increased transfers over time to help move Canada towards a fully publicly funded system, collaborating with provinces, territories and Indigenous communities to ensure quality, accessible, affordable and inclusive child care for all families;
  • Establishing a Federal Early Learning and Child Care Secretariat; and
  • Passing new federal legislation to give all children the right to high quality early learning and child care and to ensure provinces and territories use child care funding to meet specific objectives.

If you’re done waiting, write to your Member of Parliament now.