A mother in the Niagara Region would have to earn almost $38,000 a year to feel that it was affordable to return to work after having just one child.
That number – based on economists’ calculation that families spend between 20 to 30 per cent of the mother’s annual income on child care – shoots up with two or more children.
These are among the findings of a new brief released April 4 by Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory.
The brief, titled Can Niagara Families Afford Child Care?, outlines ongoing problems and issues with early childhood education and care faced by families in the Niagara Region and across the country.
“Middle-class families have been saying for years that high quality licensed child care is expensive and a strain on the household budget, yet the federal and most provincial governments have failed to significantly address the issue, primarily due to the high costs,” says the brief’s author Carol Phillips.
Families in Niagara particularly feel the crunch.
“Comparing the child care costs in Niagara Region to the median income of its taxpayers is one way of illustrating the financial burden,” says Phillips.
Canada ranks last out of 11 comparable industrialized nations, including the United States, for spending on early childhood education. Economists estimate that it would take more than $3 billion to bring Canada up to the average spent by other industrialized nations.
Increased investments in child care and early childhood education reap many rewards.
“The availability of affordable quality licensed child care makes it easier for primarily women to return to the workforce, if they desire, or continue their education to acquire or upgrade skills,” says Phillips.
“Society benefits in general from the taxes these parents pay, as well as from the high quality of early childhood education the children are receiving, which helps down the road.”
The availability of affordable and accessible licensed child care needs to enter the public policy conversation as governments tackle problems of an aging society and its overall economic and social health, the brief says.