We Need To Talk About The Fact That New Moms Can't Afford To Work

Leslie Kennedy gets mad about the prohibitive cost of daycare in Canada

There is a child care crisis in Ontario. But really, that’s old news. I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. If you live in Ontario, you’ve felt it because it’s hit you. Hard.

The cost of care in Ontario was exorbitant even before new rules were introduced in 2015 that reduced the number of children home care providers could take. The changes restricted the already scant number of child care spots, especially for infants, in the province and things went from bad to worse.

 I don’t think any of us knew how bad it was, although I don’t know if many of us were surprised by the news this week that the number of mothers in the workforce in Ontario isn’t great. In fact, it’s borderline abysmal, especially in comparison to other ‘wealthy’ countries. A major contributor to the problem? Prohibitive daycare costs.

“This is the most educated group of women in human history, in one of the best countries in the world, and they’re pulling out of work because of daycare. It’s ridiculous,” Alisa Fulshtinsky of Toronto Mommies, a Facebook page with members from across the GTA, told the Star. If these moms are lucky enough to score a coveted spot, good luck paying for it unless you make a significant pay cheque, she warns.

“(Women) need daycare to go back to work. You need to make way above the average salary to cover child care,” Fulshtinsky said.

Sadly, she’s not exaggerating. I was fortunate to get my daughter into a wonderful daycare after being wait-listed from 4 months gestation. At the time, six years ago, I paid an unheard of (in a good way!) $50 a day for an infant spot. Most of my friends were paying closer to $75. I was very lucky to be paying an average of $1,500 a month for childcare. That was a deal! I knew it then and I felt it even more once I had 2 kids in daycare and realized that I was paying markedly more for daycare than I was for my mortgage. I am not unique in that regard. That is typical in this province.

It’s worse in Canada than in other civilized countries and Ontario is particularly bad. In this country, in provinces where childcare is more affordable, there are more women with children in the workforce. Coincidence? No.

“Canadian women with children are less involved in the labour market than women in many OECD countries,” said a briefing note prepared by the Finance Department after last year’s election campaign. “In particular, prime-aged Canadian women with young children (aged less than six years) stand out as a group,” and “maternal labour force participation was, in most cases, lower in provinces with higher child care costs.”

Any of us who don’t live in Quebec know about their amazingly subsidized system. Seven dollar a day daycare is a pipe dream for those of us who consider $50 dollar a day care a steal.

We don’t want women in their ‘prime’ years, as the report called us, leaving the workforce because we can’t afford to find childcare for their families, do we? The reality is, while many of us can’t afford to work and pay for child care, the choice to leave might help our bottom line but the hit our careers will take as we exit and eventually try to re-enter the workforce will be forever negatively impacted.  

Our currently underfunded, overburdened system leaves those women who can afford to stay woefully unrepresented in a workforce. A workforce that already fails to recognize the needs of young families and the demands they put on families, especially women, who, quite frankly, are the ones more commonly expected to bend to accommodate familial needs. The fewer of us there, the fewer there are to advocate for those of us screaming from the sidelines that the system is set up to fail us, and by extension, our kids. 

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