Issues

For decades, Canadians have called for high-quality child care for all.

In 2021, the federal government announced it would spend $30 billion over the next five years to reduce parent fees dramatically and significantly increase the number of licensed programs. 

Good news: Fees have been reduced. 

Bad news: Demand for affordable licensed child care spots outstrips supply. 

The main obstacle to expanding licensed child care is a shortage of early childhood educators and other child care staff. It’s a problem that governments must fix urgently: better pay means better quality and better access.

We call on the federal, provincial and territorial governments to:

Raise wages and improve working conditions in child care.

We cannot have a Canada-wide child care program without qualified and appropriately compensated early childhood educators and other child care staff. Attracting and retaining quality staff is the primary stumbling block when it comes to affordable child care for all.

  • $19.20/hour is the median wage for child care educators in Canada, many earn only minimum wage or just above minimum wage. 
  • 89% of program staff hold a post-secondary ECE-related credential. Wages in the early learning and child care sector are lower when compared to other female dominated professions and when compared to wages paid to other workers with similar training.
  • Low wages and inadequate employee benefits, including pensions, are the primary reason early childhood educators leave the sector or decide not to join it after pre-service training. In 2009, most qualified early childhood educators were working outside the early learning and child care sector. The situation is worse today.
  • The problems of recruitment and retention are closely linked to insufficient public funding.
  • Those who work in ELCC should be paid from public funds rather than parent fee revenue, and they should be paid according to a provincially/territorially established salary grid that ensures decent, competitive wages and benefits, and incentivizes further education and professional development. 
  • Governments must also address difficult working conditions such as long hours and unpaid overtime, excessive work loads, and the requirement to handle complex learning and care needs of children without sufficient support.
Ensure high-quality child care programs.

When it comes to our children, high quality early learning and care is everything. Research tells us the quality of programs depends on qualified educators, decent working conditions and proper compensation. For one thing, low wages contribute to high turnover which is associated with lower quality service and poorer child outcomes.

  • The research is clear on the benefits of high-quality early education for all young children, and on the particular benefits for children of low-income households.
  • Research is also clear that high quality early education experience depends on a high-quality workforce of early educators.
  • High quality early childhood education supports young children in their social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.
  • Access to high quality, safe and reliable programs provide parents–especially mothers–support to participate in the paid labour force, go to school, or attend training.
Make access to quality child care universal.

Early learning and child care is just as vital as public education and health care. Early learning and child care is essential to the wellbeing and development of children. Parents–especially mothers–can’t work without it and nor can our economy.

  • Access to licensed early learning and child care is severely limited, and inequitable, because there are too few licensed child care programs to meet demand.
  • The federal government has promised major expansion of not-for-profit and public early learning and child care across the country. However, major expansion cannot be realized if governments do not develop and fund expansion plans.
  • Governments must make access to high quality child care the right of every child. Governments must assume responsibility for ensuring high quality child care is in place everywhere it is needed, and that programs are inclusive of all children.
  • Construction of a Canada-wide system of ELCC must honour and respect the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework, which sees Indigenous “children and families supported by a comprehensive and coordinated system of ELCC policies, programs and services that are led by Indigenous peoples, rooted in Indigenous knowledges, cultures and languages, and supported by strong partnerships of holistic, accessible and flexible programming that is inclusive of the needs and aspirations of Indigenous children and families.” 
  • Any and all decisions taken must honour and respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the Calls for Justice issued by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and Jordan’s Principle