Business and labour groups spoke out this month in agreement that $10/day child care is key to reducing the squeeze on families, employers and BC’s economy today. Many community and academic groups echo their voices, as do thousands of citizens.
The growing consensus has made political leaders give the issue some serious attention. In this week’s throne speech, BC Premier Clark committed to introduce measures in next week’s budget to “increase access and affordability of childcare”. But according to both the Premier and Opposition Adrian Dix, the Province just can’t afford a $10/day child care plan.
The facts do not support either leader’s claim. We know, because the Gen Squeeze campaign is facilitated by some of Canada’s leading experts about the costs and benefits of family policy.
When fully implemented – say over the next five years – the total price tag for $10/day child care is about $1.5 billion for government. The proposal is for widely available, high quality child care at $10 per full-day, $7 per part-day, and no fee for families earning less than $40,000.
$1.5 billion is serious bucks, no question. But it pales in comparison to our $16 billion budget for medical care. More interesting still, in the last provincial budget, the BC government committed to increase medical care spending by — wait for it — another $1.5 billion over three years. Why is there no question about our ability to spend $1.5 billion in some policy areas, when it is so pervasive in regards to policies that benefit younger generations?
When we finally build our investment in $10/day child care, the returns will start to kick in right away – for government, for business and for families. Move a little further out, and the returns grow exponentially with reduced health care costs, lower crime and increased productivity, among other benefits.
Here’s how it works, starting with the returns to government.
Research led by UBC’s Dr. Paul Kershaw shows that $10/day child care will support just over 17,000 parents to return to the work force after their children reach 18 months of age. Since many thousands more people will be earning additional income, and child care workers will earn pay equity wages, the program will return almost $700 million to government coffers through increases in tax revenue and savings because there are far fewer low income families in need of government support.
Very quickly, governments’ initial outlay of $1.5 billion is reduced to around $800 million.
Business saves big bucks too. $10/day child care will address the high cost of work/life conflict incurred by employers, reducing absenteeism and employee turnover by $600 million. Dr. Kershaw’s team made these calculations in consultation with private sector Chartered Accountants. See CA, Warren Beach, speak about the analysis.
At $1.3 billion, the immediate returns to government ($700 million) and business ($600 million) almost cover the full investment.
Since two earners barely bring home today what one breadwinner did in the 1970s, we’ve gone from 40 hour work weeks to closer to 80 hours. The result? Generations raising young kids are squeezed for time at home. They are squeezed for income because housing prices are nearly double, even though young people often live in condos, or trade yards for time-consuming commutes. And they are squeezed for services like child care, which are essential for parents to deal with rising costs, but are in short supply, and cost more than university.
$10/day child care provides almost $700 million in returns to families, most of which are earnings generated from increased labour force participation, along with the benefits associated with lower child care fees.
The bottom line? $10/day child care is one of three policy changes required to give younger generations a chance to deal with lower incomes and rising costs without compromising the families they have or the families they want. At the same time, $10/day child care offers returns to government and business that almost cover the program cost right away.