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The need for quality accessible child care and early learning programs

  • Child care is the ramp that provides equal access to the workforce of mothers.
  • Seventy-five per cent (75%) of mothers with the youngest child aged 3-5 years were in the paid labour force.
  • The proportion of children between the ages of 6 months to fiver years in some sort of child care arrangement has grown from 42% in 1994-95 to 53% in 2002-2003.
  • Working mothers face a double workload in society as they face the difficult challenge of balancing work and family responsibilities. More than one-third of 25-44 year old women who work full-time and have children at home report that they are severely time-stressed.
  • Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The 2003 CEDAW Committee recommended that “Canada should expand affordable child care facilities under all governments and report, with nationwide figures, on demand, availability and affordability of child care in its next report.”
  • Access to early learning and child care is critical for low-income women to overcome poverty and isolation as about 38% of female lone-parent families had incomes under the poverty line in 2003.
  • Women working in the home often want quality experiences for their children too – all women want their children to have opportunities for developmental, and enriching learning experiences in safe environments.



  • Subsidy levels for child care went up in only two provinces since 2001. Many provinces have frozen the fee subsidy eligibility since 1995.
  • In 1998, a Canadian study You Bet I Care! found that while the exact percentages varied from area to area, overall:
    • 49% of average centre revenue came from parent fees;
    • 17.6% of average centre revenue came from fee subsidies; and
    • 30.5 % came from other provincial government funding.

Government programs

  • Apart from Quebec, participation rates for children 3-6 years do not reach a quarter of those of the main European countries, and expenditure on early childhood programmes for this age group comes to just 0.2% of GDP, that is, about half of the OECD average.
  • The new Conservative government cancelled the agreements with the provinces that would have taken the first steps to lay the foundation for a national early learning and child care program. These federal-provincial agreements on child care were negotiated in good faith.

The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada is a leader in pressing all levels of government for a national child care program. www.childcareadvocacy.ca.

Child care workers

  • Canadian society continues to pay lip service only to the value of childhood educators. The working conditions and pay levels of child care workers remain at very low levels.
  • Income for early childhood educators and assistants working outside the home in 2000 with a certificate or diploma was $22,500. Others working full-time full-year with college certificates or diplomas fared better: The average for all women working full-time was $34,461 and for men full-time earning were $49,224.
  • Studies have shown that unionization has played a critical role in improving wages, benefits, training opportunities and working conditions. However it is estimated that in 2003 less than 15,000 individuals who worked in child care had any affiliation with a child care organization, and that about 31,500 members of the child care workforce were unionized.