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YWCA presses Ottawa to create national child care program

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Ferguson, Eva
Publication Date: 
14 Mar 2011



With women and men now in the workforce in equal numbers - and women surpassing men in university graduation - the federal government should create a national child care program or risk losing women's crucial financial contributions to Canada's economy, says a report released by YWCA Canada last week.

But the federal government says the YWCA is simply being "like the opposition," asking for institutionalized care without putting a figure on what would cost billions in taxpayer dollars.

Paulette Senior, CEO for YWCA Canada, says the debate should not be centred around taxes, but instead around the social responsibility of providing child care support for women and the economic benefits that come from that.

"This should not be a discussion about tax dollars. It's a social responsibility to ensure that women can work with the support they need to care for their children in a quality setting," Senior said. "Investing in that has proven to be a huge benefit financially to government."

In the report, Educated, Employed and Equal - The Economic Prosperity Case for National Child Care, the YWCA of Canada calls for a national program in which early learning and child care services "should be as normalized in our social structure as the public school system."

With every dollar invested in quality care, the report notes, up to $2.54 is returned in benefits to society, allowing women to continue earning a living, honing workplace skills, and providing children with development that is critical in the early years.

The report says more than 30 years of uninterrupted advances in women's employment has resulted in a labour force of 47.9 per cent women and 52.1 per cent men in Canada now.

That balance was even tipped by women briefly in March 2009 when they held 50.9 per cent of paid jobs due to layoffs concentrated in the male-dominated manufacturing sector.

At the same time, success in education has been dominated by women for two decades now. Up to 51 per cent of university graduates were women as far back as 1991, with a steady climb to 2011 which now has women making up 60 per cent of graduates.

But women are still battling unequal pay for equal work, and a patchwork of child care options often mixed with long-waiting lists and expensive fees for quality care, says Arlene Adamson, COO with the YWCA of Calgary.

"Women want to be able to work, but so many can't afford good care," says Adamson, explaining that many are forced to leave their children in poor quality centres, with neighbours they hardly know, or unsupervised at a young age.

Diane Finley, federal minister of human resources, says the Conservatives support child care in their own way, providing families with $100 a month for each child under six years of age.

Institutionalized care, Finley added, has been estimated to cost more than $6 billion nationwide, and wouldn't help families who work night shifts, weekends, or in remote communities.

"Parents should have the choice in child care, and our universal child care benefit provides that support. We've heard from a number of families, with two, three kids, who say that benefit has allowed them to stay at home."


The YWCA report calls for a national child care program, arguing that if child care is affordable, guaranteed and high quality, even more women can choose to work. Their contribution also provides government with increased revenues with the federal government gaining the most.

"Closing the gender gap in employment has strong positive results for developed economies and decreasing the gap was an important driver of the European economic growth in the decade before the recession," the report says.

Economist Kevin Daly also estimates in the report that increasing female employment to equal male employment would increase GDP in Italy 21 per cent, Spain 19 per cent, Japan 16 per cent and 9 per cent in Germany, France and the US.

But Finley argues the Conservatives' tax benefit, which was increased for single parents in the 2010 budget, is the most fiscally responsible and still supports women in the workplace.

"We need all the talent and skill we can get so we can still be competitive around the world."

 -reprinted from The Calgary Herald

Entered Date: 
16 Mar 2011
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