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Universal Childcare: Pays For Itself and Critical for the Economic Recovery

The Centre for Future Work recently released a study of universal childcare’s importance to the economic recovery, stressing that it’s socially beneficial but just how critical it is to the economic recovery. The study highlights that universal childcare is not a lofty goal, it’s a program that would pay for itself, and would give the Canadian economy a much needed boost

Universal childcare has been on the political agenda for decades, but its significance has never been so obvious since the pandemic began. School and daycare center closures, combined with limited space in daycare centers has put pressure on families, but also employers as more women leave work to look after their families. Some IAM members have felt the impact too, where some members have taken time off to look after their families, and others have considered changing careers altogether to balance work and family life. While business and labour may not agree on much,  there is growing acknowledgement, if not consensus that, “ expanded child care is good for parents , good for workers, good for employers, and good for society. In short, there is a powerful cross-cutting consensus that the expansion of accessible, high-quality Early Learning and Child Care is an important and urgent economic and social priority, and governments must move quickly to make it a reality.”[1]

The pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women, and the figures prove it. For instance, women lost work at a faster rate in the first months of the health-ordered shutdowns indicated by a decline in women’s total employment by 17% between February and April, when compared to men. The first jobs that were lost due to COVID-19 were those that mostly employed women. Total hours worked by women declined by 30%, which is also higher than for men. Expanded childcare coverage would not only boost labour force participation, but it would lead to creation of jobs in parts of the supply chain of the childcare industry.

Researchers found that, “by the end of a 10-year implementation period, annual Canadian GDP would be $63 to $107 billion greater than it would have been without expanded child care.” [2]

The study also found that, “extra government revenues collected as a result of increased economic activity would add $17 to $29 billion to government coffers per year – split between the federal and provincial governments. That would be more than enough to cover the total costs of a national ELCC program.” Essentially, the program would pay for itself, and add to Canada’s GDP.

The devastation of the pandemic is evident in many industries, as indicated by employment levels, but perhaps none so adverse as effects seen in our communities and services we rely on day to day. Areas that had received the least support and funding, but also those we substantially rely on, have crumbled, and amidst the devastation is an opportunity for creative problem solving. The government should not miss out on opportunities to improve and prepare for similar catastrophes, as it is our communities that sustain us in times like these. Universal child care is not just important for household incomes, and communities, but it is an industry in its own right, and one that yields both social and economic benefits. Perhaps viewing childcare as an industry, rather than solely a household or women’s issue would garner the attention this issue deserves.

By Ivana Saula

[1] The Role of Early Learning and Child Care in Rebuilding Canada’s Economy after COVID-19. Centre for Future Work. Nov.2020

[2] Ibid.

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This article was originally posted on the IAM Canada website. View the original post here: Universal Childcare: Pays For Itself and Critical for the Economic Recovery