Tag Archives: #federalelection

Better wages mean better child care

8 Oct
Daphne's pre-school teachers keep her and 15 other kids entertained for nine hours a day.

Daphne’s pre-school teachers keep her and 15 other kids entertained for nine hours a day.

My daughter has two moms and neither of them are named Karen. But when Daphne is home and needs something, she frequently calls out “Karen,” or one of the names of her other wonderful preschool teachers. Because she is almost as bonded to her child care providers as her own parents.

There are mornings when I can’t convince my child to put on pants. But somehow the amazing educators at her daycare are able to keep 16 three and four year-olds calm and stimulated for more than eight hours a day. They possess skills that I do not have.

Since starting daycare at a year old – first at a wonderful home daycare and now at a centre-based preschool – my daughter’s vocabulary, social skills and emotional regulation have improved by leaps and bounds. But all of this comes at a price. Fourteen thousand dollars last year, in fact. For one child.

Parents feels the pressure when quality child care is expensive and hard to find. So many women tell me that they couldn’t “afford” to return to work because their salaries wouldn’t cover the cost of child care. And while some are happy to take on child-rearing as a vocation, many are pushed into the primary parent role because they really have no choice.

Taking care of and educating young children is hard work. And what stay-at-home moms have in common with child care workers is a devaluing of the skills, patience and competency required to perform this crucial labour. It’s not a coincidence that 98 per cent of early childhood educators are women and that they generally make extremely low wages. What’s seen as “women’s” work is rarely rewarded. We need to do better.

My daughter’s beloved Karen is a rare jewel for several reasons. She’s been doing the same job, in the same workplace for 28 years. And she makes a decent wage. That’s because she works for one of the very few cooperative, unionized child care centres in Ottawa. She has accrued seniority and wage increases over the length of her extensive career. She gets paid vacation and sick time. And all of this makes her a better educator.

In 2007, The Ontario Expert Panel on Quality and Human Resources recommended the establishment of provincial guidelines for wages, benefits and working conditions for early learning and care programs and immediate increases in funding to enable these programs to implement substantial wage and benefit increases. None of this has happened.

Data from a 2013 report on early childhood education showed a 2.7 per cent decrease in wages between 1998 and 2012 (after adjusting for inflation) for ECEs and other staff working in regulated childcare centres in Ontario. Low wages lead to high stress and high turnover – and this impacts our kids. We should all be worried about this issue.

The reality is that without dedicated, stable federal funding, the only way to improve wages for child care workers will be out of the pockets of parents. And most of us are already over extended. Our tax dollars pay for primary education for all children in the country. Why can’t we do the same thing for early childhood education?

Canada needs a universal, affordable child care system. And this includes core funding to ensure that child care workers can make a decent wage. Because every kid should have an educator as wonderful as my daughter’s. And every child care worker should have working conditions as excellent as Karen’s.

For more information on where the federal parties stand on child care, check out the Vote Child Care 2015 campaign