In April 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set a goal of daycare costing an average of $10 a day across the country for the next five years.
In pursuit of this goal, the federal government has committed to investing $30 billion over the next five years and then at least $9.2 billion annually thereafter. The Prime Minister’s Office said the new system could cut daycare fees by an average of 50 percent everywhere outside Quebec by the end of 2022.
Since the announcement, the federal government has been in talks with provinces and territories about implementing this new system of early education and childcare. So far, it has reached agreements with seven provinces and one territory. Part of the agreements entails determining how much money the federal government will make available to each jurisdiction to make childcare affordable, accessible, and to support the childcare providers themselves with the likes of skills training and wage increases.
The rationale behind this initiative is to stimulate economic growth and social prosperity across the country.
In making the announcement, the Prime Minister’s Office explained: “By building an early learning and childcare system, we will make life affordable for Canadian families, create new jobs, grow the middle class, increase women’s participation in the workforce, and drive strong economic growth across the country. “.
How could $10 a day childcare affect immigrants?
This policy is likely to be a huge win for fathers across Canada, and perhaps most important for parents facing frail circumstances. Immigrants are among those most likely to benefit.
Immigrants tend to arrive in Canada at a younger age than the average Canadian age. This means that they tend to have younger families and that access to affordable childcare is extremely important. Unlike the average Canadian, immigrants may not have family or friends available to take care of their children, and they may not have a high enough income to be able to afford daycare. Migrant women usually bear the brunt of this.
One of the reasons that newcomer women may struggle to integrate economically and socially in Canada is the lack of affordable daycare options. For example, in Toronto, the main destination for new immigrants to Canada, the average monthly fee for a young child is $1,600 according to the 2021 federal government budget. That’s more than $3,000 per month for a typical family with two children.
In the absence of affordable options, migrant women may be forced to stay at home to care for their children. This hinders their ability to seriously pursue their career in Canada as well as build the social networks which are also vital to feeling at home in Canada. Not surprisingly, newly arrived women in research reported feeling isolated in their early years landing in Canada largely due to their childcare responsibilities.
Hence, it is very likely that rolling out the $10 per day childcare program will enable more immigrant women to pursue their careers. This will improve the purchasing power of immigrant families as they can expect more income to come in with lower costs for their daycare. The program should also improve social inclusion among immigrant women (since the workplace is also key to building social networks), and be a boon to a Canadian labor market that is set to see all of its 9 million baby boomers reach retirement age within the next decade.
Another major potential benefit is better educational and social outcomes for newcomer children as they will have access to additional educational opportunities and opportunities to make new friends.
The 2021 budget cited some examples and studies to demonstrate the importance of this new programme. In 1997, Quebec’s female labor force participation rate was four percentage points lower than the rest of Canada, but today it is four percentage points higher than the national average after the province introduced its own affordable childcare system. Furthermore, the budget cited a TD Economics study that found that every $1 investment in early childhood education results in a return to the broader economy of between $1.50 and $2.80.
Findings like this should provide newcomers and parents across Canada an important cause for optimism.
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