BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE

Better Child Care in the GTHA

  

As employers, there’s a lot we can do, but there’s only so much we can do alone.

– Employer Roundtable Participant

 

At CivicAction, we know that getting things right from the start is critical. At our April 2015 Summit, we examined childhood health as a key issue in driving our region’s health and resilience.

With further analysis and consultations, we narrowed our focus to increasing accessibility to quality child care. It is well known that rates of return on human development investment are highest during the early years, and yet about 45-50% of children (0-4 years old) are in need of licensed care in Ontario.

In September 2016, the Government of Ontario announced their commitment to create 100,000 more child care spaces over the next five years. Over a period of three months, CivicAction engaged a diverse group of employers to inform the Ministry of Education’s Renewed Early Years and Child Care Framework and Expansion Strategy. 31 different employers contributed through a series of one-on-one interviews and a roundtable meeting co-chaired by Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris on January 26, 2017.

“Return on human investment is highest during the early years of someone’s life. We also know that access to quality and affordable childcare helps the healthy development of our children and creates more opportunities for parents to return to work. Investing in childcare now means better outcomes for our future and CivicAction has gotten employers to think about their piece of the puzzle.”

Nan DasGupta, Partner & Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group, Toronto; CivicAction Leadership Foundation Board Member

The goal of the employer engagement was to:

  • Share information about the current work underway on a renewed Early Years Framework and Child Care Expansion Strategy.
  • Understand the role of employers, challenges they face, and ways to enable more employer action.
  • Help create new connections with employers and the Ministry.

Some of the key themes that emerged were the following:

The Ideal State:

We asked employers to describe what the ideal child care system would look like in Ontario. To most, an ideal system would:

  • Have more available spaceswith no stressful waitlists,
  • Offer an increased range of options(full-time, part-time, and temporary spaces) and locations (within or near workplaces) to choose from for children under four, and
  • Provide more flexible schedules(options outside of the 7am-6pm norm)
  • Be affordable. This would reduce financial stress families may feel and give them the choice, rather than a financial need, to stay at home with their children.

The Opportunity:

Employers recognized that a better child care system would have a positive effect on productivity and talent retention, as well as leading to a major economic boost of GDP. A well-built and accessible system would also help more women stay in their workplaces and ease the transition to and from maternity leave.

Standing in the way of Progress:

When child care arrangements fall through, employers face absenteeism issues. For workplaces where shifts are instrumental, this may mean employees have to work short-staffed when there is no backup in place and the employee may have to rely on other forms of child care in an emergency

Employers highlighted that it is still typical for mothers to stay home longer than fathers if parents cannot find accessible and affordable care. This is especially true if they have two or more children. This trend affects the gender wage gap as the  longer women are away from the workforce, the greater the effect on their future earning potential.

Openness to Work Together:

Through these consultations, it has become clear that employers are eager to do more. This may include offering subsidies, flexible scheduling, on-site care, or emergency care services. They flagged that they still require more information about implementing new policies, making the business case, and the current system, as well as potential financial assistance from the government in order to do more. There is also an interest in learning about best practices from other employers.

These employer consultations made it clear that organizations do recognize the significant social and economic benefits that accompany accessible, responsive, and affordable quality child care. It was also clear that employers can, and are willing to, play a role in transforming Ontario’s child care system. For many employers, providing support to their employees in this area could be an opportunity to attract and keep valuable talent.

As the Ministry continues to work to develop a renewed plan for early years and child care expansion strategy, we encourage ongoing and deeper employer engagement to build the best possible child care system in Ontario.