We’ve all heard the child care stories. Stories about parents adding their children to child care centre waitlists before their child is even born. Stories about parents struggling financially, even taking out second mortgages, to afford child care for their children. Stories about women being forced to choose between having a career and having a family, when what they want in many cases is to have both.
Right now in Alberta, regulated child care is hard to find and unaffordable for most. At the Women’s Centre we work to address the lack of affordable child care, because while this is a problem impacting families of all compositions, a lack of access to affordable child care has a disproportionately high impact on women. Women still take on significantly more child care responsibilities in the family unit, while making on average lower wages than their male counterparts. This means if a family is unable to afford child care, the parent most likely to leave the workforce to provide care at home is a woman.
There are child care shortages across Canada, and in Alberta there are enough regulated spaces for only 1 out of every 3 children under 5. In Calgary, 50% of families live in child care deserts, meaning families from underserved communities often travel long distances to drop off and pick up their children. Waitlists can be expensive, and several years long, and many early learning and child care providers make low wages, leading to job insecurity and high turnover in the industry. For many parents, and many women, participating in the workforce while raising young children is simply not an option, due to high costs and lack of access to child care.
In response to these and other barriers faced by families, in 2017 Alberta expanded the $25 per day child care program to create spaces for a total of 7,000 children. This means rather than paying $1000 or month or more, families who were able to access a space in a centre participating in the program paid $545 per month for regulated, quality care. While this program is an excellent start in ensuring some families are able to access affordable, quality child care, more work needs to be done.
Access to affordable early learning is good for families, it is good for women, and it is good for our economy. There is a crisis of quality and affordability of child care in Alberta, and more support for universal child care is needed to ensure families have access to the affordable, quality care they deserve.
To learn more about the current state of child care in Alberta, check out our Child Care in Alberta Infographic.