Why Affordable Childcare Is an Economic Justice Issue

It’s a dilemma that many working parents face — scale back their career ambitions to focus on being a parent, or work hard and, ideally, increase their earning power. More money means a more comfortable life, especially if you’re a one-income family. On the other hand, working more means more time away from home. And if you can’t rely on family to care for your kids, that means paying for daycare or nannying.

Part of the reason economists speak about a cycle of poverty is that almost all of the steps one can take to get out of it have a downside. For many single parents in the developed world, that downside is the high cost of childcare. If your work is precarious, or if you’re in a low-income position, often it’s cheaper to stay home — which means relying on government assistance or other forms of external support.

Do the Math

In Toronto, Canada, the average cost of daycare is over $1700/month. While subsidies are available, what parent — let alone a single parent — has the time and energy to research them, do the paperwork, gather the documentation and submit it to the appropriate offices? Add to that the fact that many subsidized daycares have long waiting lists, and it’s easy to see why childcare services are out of reach for many.

The high cost of childcare and the barriers to access — in Toronto and other major cities — reinforces the cycle of poverty many single parents face.

Who’s to Blame?

It’s easy to want to look for a scapegoat in the high cost of childcare, but the answers aren’t so simple. Domestic workers deserve to be paid fairly for their labour — indeed, many are not — and most parents would agree that facilities that care for children should be well-regulated to ensure a standard of quality and care.

Rather than trying to look for someone who is profiting unduly from the cost of childcare, let’s instead consider the benefits of treating daycare as a public service, like we do schooling or healthcare.

Why Cities Should Make Daycare Accessible to All

Access to no-cost or affordable daycare empowers single parents to make changes — whether it’s going back to school or simply putting in more hours — that can improve their situation in the long run. And if those changes lead to fewer people relying on public assistance, it’s an investment that’s worth it in the big picture.

It’s not just parents’ careers that benefit. Children in full-time daycare enjoy safe, supervised socialization with other kids their age. Before they can start school, daycare provides structure to young kids’ lives, helping them learn rules and adopt routines that reduce parents’ stress.

Getting Help Now

The fight for affordable childcare is a work in progress, but if you need help now, contact One Parent. We help single parents find childcare solutions and navigate the complex process of applying for subsidies. Contact our head office to speak with an intake worker today.

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