Costs of child care can be prohibitive for women accessing work. Subsidizing child care costs and making access to child care affordable, women make the best decisions and are not limited solely by economic necessity. Access to affordable child care is difficult for low-income families and other demographics of women disproportionately disadvantaged.

Evidence & Arguments

Policies and social programs help make the workplace more accessible for women. Issues of workplace access and economic equality are strongly embedded in issues of race, class, and gender; accessible child care is no different. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), universal child care is associated with higher employment rates among women.

Countries that have higher maternal employment rates tend to have affordable and high-quality child care provisions in place, and parental leave policies. Boosting maternal employment rates increases family income, maintaining women’s connection to the labour market, and increasing the population tax base. Affordable child care has a positive outcome on economic growth . Accessible child care has demonstrable positive long-term impacts for children of divergent economic backgrounds.

Child care is tied to labour force patterns, family structure, and household income. In Canada, parents belonging to higher income households are more likely to use child care, which could point to entrenched socio-economic barriers. Cost of child care varies distinctly across provinces, with the lowest median cost per month in Quebec at $152, and the highest in Ontario at $677 per month. Quebec has universal child care policy and the highest national rates of child care usage in the country.

Subsidized child care empowers women to make the best choices for themselves and their families. If affordable child care is accessible to all, social policy can counteract structural and intersectional inequalities that may impact a mother’s ability to participate in the paid labour force.

Key Decision Makers

In Canada, provincial governments have primary responsibility for child care policy. As a result, current policies range by province.  Businesses and employers can also play a role by including child care subsidies or on-site child care.

Challenges and Alternate Opinions

Subsidized child care, especially universal child care, can be a contentious policy issue. Many believe that universal child care should not be part of a fiscal government’s agenda, and that the cost of providing child care should not fall to government or business. Instead, many people advocate that by focusing on building the job market and providing access to good-paying jobs, families and women will be able to afford quality child care. 

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