The Prime Minister has announced a range of economic measures aimed at setting Canada on the path to recovery from the staggering economic impact of the pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted women.
Women’s employment rate in Canada has always been lower than men’s throughout the years, and even though progress has been made, the participation gap stood at almost 8 percentage points for those between the ages of 25 to 54 prior to COVID-19. That divide is now even bigger when pandemic-related declines are included, as women dropped out of the workforce disproportionately and have been slower to return.
Affordable childcare is a significant barrier to greater workforce participation for many women, and the Federal Government said in the throne speech that it would make “a significant, long-term, sustained investment to create a Canada-wide early learning and childcare system. The Government will build on previous investments, learn from the model that already exists in Quebec, and work with all provinces and territories to ensure that high-quality care is accessible to all.”
Canada’s labour force could be lifted by more than half a million if women were to match their male counterparts in workforce participation, according to a recent report published by Scotiabank Economics.
The benefit to working and having a successful career is simply overwhelmed by the cost of childcare in most provinces across Canada with many women opting to stay at home. However, Quebec is an exception with the universal, low-fee childcare program that was introduced in the 90s. More importantly, Quebec have also made substantial progress in narrowing its labour force participation gap whereas the rest of the country has been relatively flat over the last couple decades. The number of children at childcare facilities did increase substantially in Quebec, while improvements across the rest of the country were quite modest.
Still, significantly enhanced government financial support provided to households that send their children to daycare is also key to allow for more women to enter the workforce, Scotiabank CEO Brian Porter said in a recent op-ed.
The monthly cost of childcare can be quite prohibitive, from as high as $1,685 in Toronto or $1,400 in Vancouver, compared to $175 in Montreal.
“Making quality childcare more accessible is good for women, it’s good for families, and it’s good for Canada,” Porter said. “That’s something all Canadians can unite around.”