By Manuela Gruber Hersch
Special to The Post
Fifty years ago suggesting that one parent stay at home and forgo paid employment to provide child care would have made plenty of sense both culturally and economically.
This was largely because families could live comfortably on one breadwinner’s income and also because women had traditionally been relegated to the domestic sphere.
But in the past 40 years, due to both social advances and economic changes, Canadian families have undergone a dramatic change and the dynamics are no longer like this. For a parent to leave the workforce to care for their children today, even on a temporary basis, as mothers do, can carry real and long term risks to a career.
There is a great deal of empirical evidence which shows that higher child care costs have a negative impact on a mothers’ employment in particular.
Mothers are more likely to leave employment and less likely to start new jobs when the costs of child care are high. It is also difficult when they do not have access to consistent, quality child care. Many times families who were on a waiting list for child care assistance either lost, or had to quit, their jobs while they waited for an opening. In rural areas especially, many women are leaving the workforce permanently because they simply have no adequate child care options open to them.
According to the 2011 Census, there are about 9.4 million families living in Canada. The dual-earner family is the most common, with 60% of all married families having both spouses working outside the home.
Nowadays many families need both partners to contribute financially in order to secure quality housing, higher education for children and good living conditions. Housing prices have sky rocketing in some areas families are simply unable to purchase a house without both parents working.
Accessible and affordable child care is a powerful means of generating tax dollars, particularly at the federal government level. Earnings from increased employment generate increased tax revenues to federal and provincial governments for every child-care dollar invested. In other words, you don’t have to wait until a child is grown up for society to be paid back for investing in child care which benefits that child, the parents and the community.
The dual-income family, especially the working mothers, will play an extremely important role in maintaining and improving the country’s economy and should be supported. Yet while female participation in the workforce is essential, a lack of accessible and affordable childcare is the largest culprit that currently prevents women from leaving the home.
Childcare should be a priority for the Federal government, and must be a top issue at the next Federal election in 2015.