Low-fee childcare is proving to create more jobs

Quebec is the second largest province in Canada, so as you can imagen there are a lot of children needing good childcare. In 1997 Quebec started a "natural experiment" that replaced the traditional childcare system, the teaching method didn't change but the price did. Parents normally pay the full cost of childcare, but have access to tax deductions. In September 1997 they paid C$5 per day, and was targeted at four-year-olds. Simultaneously, full-time kindergarten was extended to all five-year-olds.The programme was then progressively extended to younger children. It was finally opened to all preschool-age children in September 2000. In January 2004, the daily fee was raised to C$7. Over the past 15 years, there has been a spectacular rise in the proportion of Quebec children aged four and under attending regulated childcare. That jump was from 19 per cent in 1998 to 54 per cent in 2012, with a reasonably good balance of children from high- and low-income classes. Elsewhere in Canada, the attendance rate for children under five in regulated childcare in 2012 was 27 per cent.

Thanks to this new pricing system there was a substantial increase in the amount of women aged 25-44. Quebecs rate of women employed was three percent lower then the national average but increased to three percent above the average in 2014. Furthermore, the number of lone-parent families on Quebec social assistance has declined sharply from 99,000 in 1996 to 39,000 in 2015.

The use of low-fee childcare when a child is of preschool age raises the mother’s employment rate not only during this early period of the child’s life but also later, once the child has entered school. In 2008, Quebec’s low-fee childcare programme was responsible for about 70,000 more mothers being in work. This means that there were 3.8 per cent more employed women than if the programme had not existed. Whilst this was a clear success the demand for childcare spaces still considerably exceeds the supply.

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