Adrienne Silnicki | CUPE Research
“The major take-away from the pandemic, is that our economy cannot work without child care,” said Lee-Ann Lalli, CUPE National Child Care Working Group Co-Chair. “Any parent or guardian who has been at home trying to juggle work while providing for children can tell you it is an impossible task,” she said. Child care was one of very few sectors in our economy that did not close in many provinces and territories. It continues to operate either at near normal levels in BC, Alberta, and Quebec, or is made available to provide care to the children of other essential workers in Ontario and much of the East Coast.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our child care workers. These frontline essential workers are often unseen and undervalued by policy makers. The importance of their work is overlooked by government, and often society at large. Child care workers are some of the lowest paid full-time workers, and rarely do they receive benefits or are part of a pension plan. Many start at $17/hour, even though 95.5% of child care workers have post-secondary training. Due to the low wages and difficult working conditions, only 35.7% of those who have Early Childhood Educator (ECE) qualifications work in the sector, while 41% are employed elsewhere.
With poor remuneration, it is no surprise that Canada has a recruitment and retention problem for those working in the ECE field. Many regions in CUPE are launching their own response to the lack of respect and low pay for these workers. There may also be a federal opportunity to access better wages if the Trudeau government makes good on a 50-year Liberal promise to bring in universal child care. “Any plan for universal care must include decent wages and good working conditions for child care workers,” said Margot Nickerson CUPE’s National Child Care Working Group Co-Chair.
There is not enough child care available for every child. Currently, forty-four per cent of children in Canada live in a child care desert. “If we want to create a universal child care program, we’re going to have to ensure we have enough workers. One way to attract and retain workers into early learning and child care is to offer them a decent wage, benefits, a pension and our respect, they surely deserve it all,” said Nickerson.