Status of Women Canada Ministerial Transition Book
Child Care and Other Forms of Care

Background

As more Canadian women balance motherhood with an active attachment to the labour market, many families are accessing private forms of child care. Though trends are shifting, mothers are still most likely to be affected by issues of childcare, with the impacts being more significant the younger the child. Although the availability of child care spaces in Canada has increased over the last two decades, finding a child care space can be difficult and come at a premium price. At 0.25% of GDP, Canada ranks last among comparable European and English speaking countries on child care spending. Regarding family support, including parental leave and child care support, public spending in Canada is 17% below the OECD average.

The shortage of affordable childcare spaces has an impact on the ability of some women, particularly low to middle income earners, to maintain strong attachment to the labour market. The high costs of childcare often create disincentives for women to work, in favour of remaining in the home with their children. In a highly competitive labour market where active and current employment experience matters, work disruptions can lead to job insecurity and decrease women’s long term career trajectory and earnings potential.

In addition to child care responsibilities, women are still doing the bulk of other kinds of care. In 2012, 8 million Canadians reported that they provided unpaid care to a chronically ill, disabled or aging family member or friend. Those providing the most care were women. In the context of an aging society, the demand for care is expected to increase with the demand for the care of seniors alone projected to nearly double by 2031. This coupled with a tightening labour market, where those providing informal care will be hesitant to take time from work for fear of losing their job, suggests that the number of employed caregivers, including high intensity (15+ hours per week) caregivers, will continue to grow - the majority of whom will be women.

Childcare investments are unequal across Canada, with some jurisdictions having implemented their own childcare regimes and subsidies. Quebec’s subsidized childcare program has significantly impacted labour market participation rates for women aged 25 to 44, moving from 3% below the national average in 1996 (75%), to 4% above the national average in 2014 (85%).

Current Status

Investments in child care through direct transfers to families, and supports for caregivers through Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits and the Family Caregiver Tax credit are intended to respond to the needs of Canadian families. The Government’s commitments related to childcare and other forms of care will necessitate a review of the existing framework of programs in order to determine reforms and new investments going forward.

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