It’s 2008 and we are no longer just Canadians, we are part of the global economy. Unfortunately, as part of this economy, Canada’s productivity has been lagging significantly behind our economic partners and peers. Our average productivity growth ranked 20th in the OECD; and we’ve slipped from 5th to 10th place in GDP per capita over the last 15 years. Not surprisingly, as we’ve been slipping, so has our commitment to our childcare programs.
In 2007 alone, federal transfers to provinces and territories for child care services dropped $350 million dollars, going from $950 million in 2006, to just $600 million last year. While the average OECD country spends .7% of GDP on childcare, Canada spends only .2%. While parents across Europe pay 25% of childcare costs, Canadians pay 50%.
Even if daycare fees weren’t an issue, there aren’t enough spaces. Fewer than 20 per cent of all Canadian children attend licensed facilities, and right now, Ontario alone has 17,000 families on childcare waiting lists. Without adequate childcare, families, and particularly women, are held back.
When we support childcare initiatives, we are supporting wealth creation, not wealth distribution. By placing emphasis on safe, affordable daycare, we’re helping women today while preparing our children for tomorrow. We have to allow every single citizen the opportunity to have a full time career. Doing this will ensure that our GDP grows and our child poverty declines.
This is a fact that has not been overlooked by other nations around the world. By spending $18 million annually on childcare services, Switzerland receives $29 million back in additional tax revenues and reduced spending on social aid. By providing easy access to affordable childcare, the rate of hours worked by mothers almost doubled with the most significant increases coming from single parent households.
Today in Canada, 65% of all women with children under the age of three works, while 68% of single mothers work. However, with women accounting for nearly 70% of all part-time employees, we can conclude that these women are not reaching their full earning potential. This recognition becomes even more pronounced when we accept that 43% of children living in poverty are living with a single female parent. How can they work more; how can they raise their families out of poverty, if they have no one to look after their children while they’re gone?
How can we, as a country, compete globally if some of our greatest assets are unable to complete a full days work, because there’s no one to look after their greatest assets? We need to allow Canadian women the opportunity to go to work everyday, without worrying about finding, and paying for, daycare.
The CCAC (The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada ) has laid forth 3 recommendations for the Harper government to include in their next budget. The recommendations cover unity for childcare standards across all provinces and territories, $1.5 billion in annual funding and an overall plan for family life balance.
What we need to do as women is to urge our government to follow these actions. We need to convince our Prime Minister that spending money to ensure easy access to quality childcare will allow Canada to compete with the rest of the world. We have to make this government understand that by guaranteeing excellent care for our children, we’re guaranteeing Canada’s future. With our present day workforce fully utilized, and our next generation workforce fully equipped, Canada could become the economic superpower of the 21st century.