Affordable, universal child care: it’s a no brainer

eli edit

Eli with his mum (my god-daughter), in 2013.

The high cost and limited availability of licensed child care in Yellowknife – and all across the NWT – is a serious issue. The numbers in this post refer to Yellowknife. First, the costs. Research from June this year revealed that for young families, the cost of childcare is the second largest household expense. Parents are paying $15,200 per year for one child registered in licensed child care.
Second, the availability. According to a feasibility study on universal affordable child care in the NWT, there are 586 licensed spaces available to kids now and 1497 kids ages 0 to 4. * There are almost three times as many kids as spaces. I’ve heard anecdotes from families who say that they sign children up for child care a soon as the pregnancy is confirmed so they are certain to get a space.

There are so many reasons for the GNWT to invest in universal affordable child care. The first is that it would give women a viable choice whether to remain in their paid jobs or to stay home with their children. (The study says there are three times as many stay at home moms as stay at home dads; that’s why I’m referring to women.) Many women decide to stay home once they have two children because they say they are only working to pay child care costs. The same study mentioned above says that there is a minimum of 76 and a maximum of 727 women who may re-enter the workforce if child care was affordable. There are jobs waiting for them in government and the private sector.

There is a significant economic benefit to investing in universal affordable child care for those of us without small children. Additional child care will create a demand for training and additional employment in the child care field itself. The NWT Bureau of Statistics estimates the economic multiplier (a type of return on investment) for child care services as 9.86 jobs for $1 million invested. And all the parents who return to the workforce as well as the additional child care staff are paying taxes.

The cost to GNWT of providing universal affordable child care is $21 million per year. That’s less than the cost overrun on the road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk. That’s why I’m saying this investment is a no brainer and a clear priority for the 18th Assembly.

*Feasibility Study of Universal Affordable Child Care in the Northwest Territories (2015)