Childcare and Early Childhood Education - Essential Service
This is Part 1 of a series of BC specific post-COVID-19 Green recovery solutions I commit to promote so we can build a more resilient and inclusive province.
Investing in a provincial childcare strategy and early childhood education should play a significant role in supporting British Columbia’s long term economic recovery. Business cycles are a normal part of the economy, and in the "long term" you would expect, in our current GDP obsessed world, that we will experience more booms and busts. It is virtually undisputed that COVID-19 has amplified the recession we had already entered at the end of 2019. COVID-19 has morphed the recession in a completely unique fashion, different from previous recessions, with working women accounting for nearly 60% of job losses. In prior economic downturns, male blue collar workers were typically the hardest hit. The recovery strategy in an ordinary recession would be to seek “shovel ready” projects to get workers back to work and incomes flowing. Not this time.
As we discuss recoveries, we must ensure that those who have been hardest hit receive the greatest attention with the recovery strategies. As working parents will all know, reliable and affordable childcare is one of the most difficult issues to navigate when juggling the work/life balance. With the births of my first two children, I found that the cost of childcare simply didn’t warrant a return to work. I delayed my return to work and operated a daycare as a way to earn income and remain with my children for a longer period of time.
In 1996, Quebec implemented a provincially funded affordable child care program that is now credited with enabling 70,000 mothers to enter the workforce.The program has entirely paid for itself through increased income tax revenue paid by the working women. Although the Quebec model may not be an appropriate model for BC, it certainly should be part of the conversation.
The BC NDP promised $10 a day daycare, but have a long way to go to meet the demand. Now, more than ever is the time to invest in affordable daycare and increase training opportunities for Early Childhood Educators.
Martha Friendly is one of Canada's most vocal advocates for affordable, accessible childcare. She is the founder and executive director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit. In a recent CBC Interview she described a Statistics Canada analysis showing that 74 percent of families with young children have two parents who typically work outside the home and most of them depend on access to childcare services. She says if parents can’t return to the workforce due to a lack of reliable, affordable childcare - we are going to have a long recession. Employers depend on a reliable workforce and childcare plays a key role in employee reliability and employment opportunities.
In the Early Years Studies funded by the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation, the authors state that early childhood education creates a double dividend that simultaneously supports children’s learning and well-being, while also enabling parents to participate in the workforce. Significantly, according to the study, every $1 invested in early childhood education yields $6 in economic benefits. That’s a return on investment we’d all take to the bank.
Now more than ever, BC must invest in childcare and early childhood education as a long term strategy to address income inequality, reliable workforce opportunities, gender parity and equalize employment opportunities. In our 2017 BC Green Platform, we proposed free daycare for working parents with children under the age of three and up to $500 per month for families with children under age three and a stay-at-home parent. As Leader of the BC Green party, I will promote the implementation of a provincial childcare and early childhood education as a long term strategy for BC.