Women’s Economic Security report a missed opportunity to create needed change

The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women has finally released its report entitled Women’s Economic Security: Securing the Future of Canada’s Economy.

The Committee report makes 86 recommendations to the Government of Canada based on the briefs submitted and testimony heard over 22 meetings throughout 2017. Although comprehensive, the recommendations fall short of the urgent action needed to truly ensure women’s economic security and contrast sharply with the more prescriptive recommendations made in the Supplementary Report submitted by the NDP.

Lack of high-quality, affordable child care identified as significant barrier 

The lack of access to high-quality, affordable child care was identified as a significant barrier to women’s economic security because women bear a disproportionate responsibility, compared to men, for the care of children.

Witnesses shared key elements they said should be part of the framework for Canada’s child care system:

  • inclusive child care with the capacity to meet the needs of children from diverse backgrounds, such as children from low-income families, children of different cultural backgrounds, and children with different abilities
  • flexible child care services to fit a variety of parental needs, such as parents who work non-standard hours, including shift work, and the conditions of different communities, such as rural and urban
  • child care that is culturally appropriate for Indigenous children and provided to both urban Indigenous populations and in Indigenous communities
  • Improved working conditions and wages in order to improve both recruitment and retention of qualified early childhood educators.

The report recommended that the Government of Canada:

  • collaborate with the provinces and territories to ensure that all child care investments are accompanied by reporting mechanisms and indicators for long-term data collection that will provide all levels of government with appropriate forecasting and analysis tools to improve childcare services, with the goal of achieving high-quality, universal, accessible, flexible, affordable and inclusive childcare (Recommendation 37)
  • recognize the specific and unique needs of: children in rural, remote, northern and urban communities; children from low-income families; children from single-parent families; children of different cultural backgrounds, including new immigrants; children with different abilities; and Indigenous children (Recommendation 38)
  • collaborate with the provinces and territories to provide child care options, including care in the home, for parents working irregular hours and shift work (Recommendation 39)
  • collaborate with the provinces and territories to collect national data about the availability of subsidized childcare on post – secondary education institutions’ campuses (Recommendation 40)

The Committee failed to make recommendations for improving the crisis facing the early childhood education and child care workforce.

Morna Ballantyne, Executive Director at the Childcare Advocacy Association of Canada, had explained to the Committee that “retaining staff to the profession is not possible when the predominantly female childcare workforce works for substandard wages and in impossibly difficult conditions.”

NDP advances concrete proposals to end the child care crisis

In its supplementary report, the NDP declared, “a universal child care program is the number one action needed for women’s access to the workforce and true gender equality.”

It noted that Trudeau’s Budget 2018 says the lack of child care is a major challenge for most Canadians families, but that the federal government has failed to act. The current system barely serves one in four children and child care costs in Canada are among highest in the world.

The NDP recommended:

  • That the Government of Canada, in Budget 2019, take leadership on creating a national, universal child care system that provides affordable, quality childcare to all families in Canada
  • That Canada, in Budget 2019, reach the international standard of 1% of GDP spent on childcare
  • That in the universal childcare system in Budget 2019, Early Childhood Educators be paid a living-wage so that they are retained in the field and so that women working as ECEs have economic security.

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