According to a 2016 report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, families in 30 wealthy nations spend 15 per cent of their net income on childcare costs on average.
In the United Kingdom, this can be upwards of 33.8 per cent of a family’s income. In countries like Korea, Austria, Greece and Hungary, it is as low as four per cent, thanks to government supports.
Meanwhile in the United States, a family may spend 25.6 per cent of their income on childcare costs. For single parents, that cost soars to 52.7 per cent of their net income.
Not only is there inequity in the proportion of money relative to one’s income spent on childcare, the type of childcare of which a family may have access (or not at all) can vary depending on the type of neighbourhood and their socioeconomic status. It will also vary on what types of activities and food the children will be provided.
These inequities can follow a child for years to come.
For those who may not have access to affordable childcare, family members like grandparents or elder siblings – more often than not sisters — may pitch in to support childcare. For families without affordable access or a “village” to support them, it frequently means women take on the brunt of childcare and leave the workforce — or in single parent households struggle to make ends meet due to the high costs.
We know the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, racialized women and women with children. It is even more stark for single mothers. And we know, Windsor-Essex has a high rate of child poverty, plus a higher-than-average rate of single mothers.
An RBC report on the economic effects of the pandemic – the “she-cession” – found 10 times more women have left the labour force than men over the past year. These women were younger, more likely to be mothers, immigrants, visible minorities and often without university degrees.
From juggling childcare to online schooling, the brunt of those responsibilities fell on women. And the longer the pandemic goes on, the longer these women spend out of the workforce, further reducing their ability to return to the workforce whenever the economy recovers.
The federal budget investing in a national, affordable childcare program is more than welcome news. At a proposed $10 per day, this program will be a game-changer for generations to come.
Childcare costs in Canada currently vary drastically depending on where you live. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found in Quebec, childcare costs are around $200 per month. In areas like Toronto, the cost is upwards of $20,000 a year.
In Windsor, it is about $1,000 a month. The lowest in the province, that is still $12,000 a year. The 2016 Census placed Windsor’s median after-tax income at $26,941.
We know millennials (and others) have cited a lack of affordable housing and childcare costs as reasons for either not having or delaying having children. Quebec has seen an increase in its fertility rate – people having children – since the implementation of its childcare program.
When you do the math, it is not difficult to understand why high costs can be a barrier to having children. How does a parent juggle paying for childcare if it means your entire paycheque (or more) is going to childcare? It leaves little to no room to save, invest or have disposable income to spend.
On the road to recovery following the pandemic, a lot more support will be needed to spur the economy and re-integrate women into the workforce. The same RBC report referenced skills training for women. But without affordable childcare options, any new training or education may just be a pipe dream for many women with children.
This proposed program still faces challenges to implementation. But public support is clearly here to nudge provincial governments in the right direction and support investing in a Care Economy.
At the end of the day, the question also becomes what type of society do we want to live in? If people desire a country with a level playing field for parents of all backgrounds, then affordable childcare for everyone is one way to make that happen.
And finally it is within our reach.
Sarah Mushtaq is a millennial who writes about race, gender and life in today’s changing world. She can be reached at [email protected].