Child-care deserts in Canada affecting nearly 50 per cent of younger children: report

A new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) is highlighting a lack of child-care spaces in Canada and how it’s affecting families with children of various societal backgrounds.

The report, released on Tuesday, found that of the 1.97 million children in Canada under the age of eligibility to enter kindergarten, 946,000 of them are living in child-care deserts.

The CCPA estimates there are 759,000 full-time licensed child-spaces in the country, however for each postal code there are at least three children competing for a single spot; roughly 48 per cent have access challenges.

Among the most impacted provinces, 92 per cent of Saskatchewan’s younger children are living in child-care deserts, followed by 79 per cent in Newfoundland and 76 per cent in British Columbia.

Prince Edward Island only had one child-care desert in the whole province—the least in Canada—with four per cent of younger children living in one postal code struggling to access care. Eleven per cent of Quebec’s younger children are living in child-care deserts, while New Brunswick totalled 29 per cent, according to the report.

While the report doesn’t explain why certain regions have more child-care deserts than others, it did find it’s most often rural areas that are more likely to have child-care deserts in comparison to urban areas with a population of over 100,000 people.

Finding infant care is especially difficult, the report found, as it estimates only eight out of 50 major Canadian cities meet the standard 33 per cent coverage rate of full-time licensed services for each child. These cities are all in Quebec including Montreal, Laval and Quebec City. Most of the other Canadian cities have at least five infants competing for a single licensed spot, however the worst ranked cities reported less than one licensed spot for every 10 infants; these cities included Saskatoon, Sask., St. John’s. N.L., and Brampton, Ont.

The federal government’s plan to increase child-care spaces and decrease fees to $10 a day within the next five years has provided a sign of relief to parents, however, the report found it may not be enough to tackle all the challenges to child-care access.

A focus on non-profit child-care services, tackling the shortage of early childhood educators and implementing regulations to maintain affordable care need to be addressed, the CCPA said in its seven recommendations.

Martha Friendly, executive director for the Childcare Resource and Research Unit said these recommendations are crucial to ensuring quality expansion of child-care access in Canada.

“If making high quality child care accessible to all Canadian families is our goal,” Friendly said in a news release, “then purposeful expansion of public, and not-for-profit licensed child care is the only way to ensure that the child care deserts in which half of Canada’s younger children live become a thing of the past.”  

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