The Learning Curve

The Economist Intelligence Unit / Pearson

Read online

Related Article:
New report compares education systems around the world
Report card, Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun
Jan 29, 2013

… The report concludes that there is no magic bullet for improving education, but there are lessons to be learned, such as the following (word for word from the report):

  • Respect teachers
  • Culture can be changed
  • Parents are neither impediments to nor saviours of education
  • Educate for the future, not just the present

The Economist story concludes with this:

“A big message is that national culture matters more than the structure of an education system. So the main lesson for policymakers may be to put education at the forefront of the story a nation tells about itself. Countries which do that with conviction and consistency can leapfrog the complacent. Outcomes can change rapidly: many students in the Asian “super league” countries have grandparents who are barely literate. Israel has also leapt up in maths and reading. Rankings and data do not tell the whole story. But they provide a useful spur.”

Read online

The Child Care Transition – UNICEF Report Card on Early Childhood Education and Care in Economically Advanced Countries

UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre

Download the Report (PDF)

UNICEF Canada calls for measurable standards, guidelines, appropriate funding for child care, and solutions by July 2009
Toronto, 11 December 2008 – A new study released by UNICEF states that a far-reaching change is overtaking childhood in the world’s richest countries, including in Canada. For the first time in the history of the industrialized world, a majority of the rising generation is now spending a significant part of childhood in out-of-home child care.

The Child Care Transition is the 8th annual report cardproduced by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy. According to the report card, this child care revolution offers enormous potential for children, society and the economy, if sufficient supportive policies and programmes are in place.

The report card states that these changes reflect new opportunities for women’s employment outside the home. But in part, also, they reflect new necessities. And the poorer the family, the greater is the pressure to return to work as soon as possible after a birth – often to unskilled, low-paid jobs.

“High quality early childhood education and care has a huge potential to enhance children’s cognitive, linguistic, emotional and social development,” says Marta Santos Pais, Director of the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (IRC). “It can help boost educational achievement, limit the early establishment of disadvantage, promote inclusion, be an investment in good citizenship, and advance progress for women.”

The UNICEF report card proposes 10 benchmarks to compare the early childhood policies of the 25 most affluent countries in the world, and these benchmarks should be regarded as a first step toward establishing a set of minimum standards to facilitate good early childhood outcomes. According to the report, Sweden meets all 10 benchmarks, Norway eight, Austria five, Italy and Japan four. Ireland and Canada meet only one benchmark.

Equity and quality services required

Although there is progress in many parts of Canada, Nigel Fisher, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada states that “greater equity in the provision and monitoring of quality services would give all Canadian children the chance for the best possible start in life.”

And, considering current evidence from neuroscience on how important the first months and years of care are to human development, and the evidence of what works in early childhood policy and programming across the industrialized world, “it is clear that underinvestment limits the potential to ensure that the childcare transition is good for our children,” says Fisher.

In addition, investing in early child care and education is a key strategy to respond to current economic challenges, and promote economic stimulus and recovery. Early childhood care and education is an investment not only in the development of children, but economists agree that the social and economic benefits include a more competitive workforce, higher tax revenues, lower social programme costs down the road, and economic returns to the GDP in excess of the dollars invested.

“For all these reasons, UNICEF Canada strongly supports the recommendation of the Senate of Canada Standing Committee on Human Rights,” reaffirms Fisher. “The federal government must take the lead in developing a coordinated approach to the establishment of measurable standards, guidelines and funding for child care, with solutions presented to the public by July 2009.”

“Canada can ensure that this major social and economic transition – which is here to stay – has positive outcomes for the rising generation and that investment in these services achieves the intended results,” he adds while recognizing that the federal government’s pledge to extend parental leave benefits to the self-employed is a welcome step in that direction.

“This report clearly shows that quality child care and educational services with strong family supports, such as effective parental leave, are crucial to both our children’s and our nation’s potential,” concludes the President and CEO of UNICEF Canada.


Related articles

Canada ties for last among developed countries when it comes to child supports
December 10, 2008
Canadian Press

TORONTO — Canada fails to meet nine of out 10 proposed standards aimed at ensuring children get the best start in life through education and support programs, tying for last place among affluent countries, an analysis released Wednesday by UNICEF concludes.

The UNICEF benchmarks are crucial for children in their formative years, says the United Nations organization.

“We over-invest in remedial action down the line when kids reach their teen years and under-invest in the early years when their behaviour, their comportment, their learning can really be set for the rest of their lives,” said Nigel Fisher, head of UNICEF Canada.

The benchmarks, which UNICEF calls practical and reachable, include providing a year of parental leave at 50 per cent or more of salary and spending one per cent of gross domestic product on childhood services.

Sweden was the only country to meet all 10 standards and Iceland met nine among the 24 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Slovenia, which scored six out of 10, was the only non-OECD country assessed.

At the bottom, Canada and Ireland were found to reach only one benchmark: half of staff in accredited early-education services have proper post-secondary qualifications. The United States met three.

Martha Friendly, director of the Toronto-based Childcare Resource and Research Unit, said Canada’s poor showing came as no surprise.

“The child-care transition . . . is being facilitated by public policies in most countries,” Friendly said.

“In Canada, this has been left to be a private family responsibility. We have very weak public policy and that would be at the national level and at the level of most of the provinces.”

Friendly said the federal government needs to send an “emergency signal” showing it considers the issue important by making commitments in its budget next month.

The UNICEF report argues that many OECD countries need to almost double current levels of expenditure on early childhood services to meet minimum acceptable standards.

Canada, for example, spends roughly 0.2 per cent of its GDP on child supports, Fisher said.

The report notes that most children in the developed world are spending their earliest years in some form of care outside the home.

About 80 per cent of children aged three to six are in some form of early childhood education and care outside the home.

About one in four under the age of three are also cared for outside the home – with the proportion rising to one in two in some countries.

“What we are now witnessing across the industrialized world can fairly be described as a revolution in how the majority of young children are being brought up,” the report states.

“To the extent that this change is unplanned and unmonitored, it could also be described as a high-stakes gamble with today’s children and tomorrow’s world.”

The report emphasizes advances in recent years in scientific research show the long-term importance of giving kids a good educational and emotional start in life – something especially key for marginalized or otherwise disadvantaged children.

The report can be found at

UNICEF proposed benchmarks and rankings for early child care

UNICEF has issued a report ranking 25 countries against 10 proposed benchmarks when it comes to early childhood services.

Among proposed minimum standards:

  • Entitlement to paid parental leave of at least one year at 50 per cent of salary
  • A national plan with priority for disadvantaged children
  • Subsidized and regulated child care for 25 per cent of children under three
  • Subsidized and regulated child care for 80 per cent of children aged four
  • Accredited training for 80 per cent of child-care staff
  • Staff-to-children ratio of 1:15 in groups of under 25
  • Public funding for children under six of one per cent of GDP

Top five and bottom five affluent countries in terms of meeting early child-support standards:

  • Sweden: 10
  • Iceland: 9
  • Denmark: 8
  • Finland: 8
  • France: 8
  • Switzerland: 3
  • United States: 3
  • Australia: 2
  • Canada: 1
  • Ireland: 1



The real child-care challenge
Winnipeg Free Press
14 Dec 2008
By: Susan Prentice, associate professor of sociology at the University of Manitoba

A newly released report from UNICEF provides important information for Manitobans and should prompt immediate action.

The study, The Child Care Transition, finds that children of the world’s most affluent countries spend a large part of their early childhood in some form of child care — but the child care they are in does not always meet best practices. Nevertheless, child care is a fact of life for most children. “Preschool enrolments,” says the U.S. National Research Council, “are large, growing, and here to stay.”

Some commentators worry about this new reality, but for the wrong reasons. Rebecca Walberg recently argued against daycare, critiquing Quebec’s generous innovations (For the Sake of the Children, Winnipeg Free Press Dec. 7). She and others who oppose universal child care and education are in the minority and are missing the real focus

Social scientists, development psychologists, health researchers and educators embrace the idea that good-quality child care supports children’s development. In their exhaustive report, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, eminent researchers at the American Academy of Science conclude that “the positive relation between child-care quality and virtually every facet of children’s development that has been studied is one of the most consistent findings in developmental science.”

High-quality care “is associated with outcomes that all parents want to see in their children, ranging from co-operation with adults to the agility to initiate and sustain positive exchanges with peers, to early competence in math and reading.”

In addition, child care is essential for reducing family poverty because it permits parents to participate in training, education and employment. Dependable care is essential for mothers who need or want to take a paid job, develop job skills, or go back to school.

Without affordable, reliable childcare, women may be forced to stay out of the labour force, to work at poorly paid part-time employment, or be stuck in dead-end jobs. Some women — especially single mothers — are forced to depend on social assistance or may fall into poverty.

Reliable child care helps all parents balance work and family responsibilities. Even affluent families struggle to balance jobs and families, and early-childhood education programs are one remedy for reducing family stress. In the 21st century, as families move across countries and around the globe, extended kin networks may no longer be available for caregiving. Child care is one way to build new family supports, a followup to paid parental leaves that allow new parents to spend time with very young children.

Economic realities also play a role in why Manitobans, like all Canadians, need highquality and universally accessible child care. In the immediate term, employers lose time and productivity to work-family conflict. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that such conflict costs Canadian businesses at least $2.7 billion each year.

The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce has identified labour issues as the biggest constraint to economic growth. It has cited retention, training and succession planning as key concerns for employers. Child care can help business meet these challenges.

Child care is a green and labour-intensive service, providing sustainable jobs. New Manitoba research estimates that every $1 invested in child care generates $1.58 of economic activity.

Economists like Nobel Prize winner James Heckman have shown that investment in early childhood brings proven benefits to children, families, governments and national economies.

The key to positive gains is the quality of children’s experiences. The UNICEF report assesses the world’s 25 most developed countries against 10 benchmarks for quality and excellence. Sadly, Canada ties for last place, meeting just one of the 10 recommended standards.

Policy-makers must immediately re-examine the current policy architecture, which devotes too few resources and allocates them ineffectively. Manitoba can learn much from Quebec, which meets six of the 10 benchmarks. Quebec has expanded access, reduced parent fees (to $7 a day) and increased staff training and remuneration.

The current economic recession provides compelling reasons to make improvements now, rather than wait. Heckman explains why: Investing in young children “is a rare public policy initiative that promotes fairness and social justice and at the same time promotes productivity in the economy and in society at large.”

For the sake of our children and families, Manitoba urgently needs an excellent, high quality early-childhood care and education system.

Federal Budget 2008 and CCPA Alternative Budget


Alternative Federal Budget 2008: A Budget Canadians Can Count On
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
February 2008

Budget In Brief (PDF)

Selected responses to federal budget

Small budget misses big picture

OTTAWA – The minority Conservative government has let Canadians down with a budget short on the vision and leadership needed to address the most pressing issues of our time, says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The federal budget does little to address poverty, climate change and provide long-term help for Canada’s struggling communities – despite urgent need.

“Big problems require big solutions, and they’re nowhere to be found in this budget,” says CCPA Senior Economist Marc Lee. “The funding announced today may fulfill its roll as a PR strategy but it doesn’t come close to the kind of investment that our cities need to stay vibrant and competitive.” …

“This budget does nothing substantive on poverty reduction or measures for First Nations, nor does it minimize the economic insecurity facing Canadian families,” Yalnizyan says. “This is a budget for the rich – not the rest of us.”

“This government has cut and run on ordinary working families. The Conservatives are claiming poverty yet somehow they’ve found money to hand out to Canada’s most affluent in the form of Tax Free Savings Accounts,” says Lee. “They’ve blown an opportunity to make real investments that position Canada for the future.”

Budget meets lower than low expectations

OTTAWA — “The Federal government set expectations low going into the budget, and they met lower than low expectations, said Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Minister Flaherty did not address health care, child care, poverty or homelessness, and there are no long-term solutions for the municipal infrastructure deficit…

The budget introduced a new tax shelter in the form of a tax-free savings account. “What good is a tax-free savings account if you have no prospect of having savings? Few Canadians are even able to contribute to RRSPs let alone have any other savings. Essentially the Harper government maintains that wages must be taxed – but investment income is tax-free,” said Moist….

“Canadians want increased funding for public services: including health care, child care, a robust infrastructure fund that is not tied to privatization efforts, and a real commitment to tackle the pressing problems of climate change….

CUPE: Federal budget 2008 and Early Learning and Child Care

Federal budget: surplus of rhetoric, deficit of real solutions
‘It fails the test of real action and fails to deal with real problems.’

What Finance Minister Jim Flaherty calls a budget of “focus, prudence, and discipline” is actually “feeble, paltry and disappointing,” says Larry Brown, secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). …“But when it comes to the key challenges facing working and middle class families, the only thing today’s budget delivers is a surplus of rhetoric, and a major deficit when it comes to real action. The budget has a few small measures aimed at placating Canadians, but there will be no real relief for those that are hurting, and no real solutions to the problems facing our economy…. He pointed out that the budget offers little or nothing to address the serious concerns of Canadians, such as reducing health care wait times, confronting climate change, improving long-term care for the elderly, creating affordable child care spaces, dealing with the crisis in the manufacturing sector, reducing college and university tuition fees, strengthening pension security and expanding social services. The budget also ignores the large and growing income gap in Canada….

Harper budget priorities: corporate tax breaks, debt reduction more important than child care

The BCGEU says that in today’s federal budget, the Harper government has “squandered” another chance to make a major investment in a national child care system to meet the urgent needs of Canadian families.

“With such a massive $13 billion surplus, the Conservative government had the financial tools to make child care a priority,” says BCGEU president George Heyman. “They could have done a lot to alleviate the severe shortage of spaces across the country.

“But with the choices they’ve made in this budget,” charges Heyman “the Harper government has squandered the opportunity to make a sound investment in child care and provide much needed assistance for tens of thousands of Canadian families.

“They’ve set their priorities: tax breaks for big corporations and $10 billion of debt reduction are more important than the needs of children and families.”
The federal budget does nothing more than preserve the status quo, says Heyman, which is to maintain the current taxable $100 per month child benefit payments to parents.

Soon after they were elected in 2006, the Harper government cancelled a federal-provincial agreement that would have created and funded a national child care program. Billions in child care funding was replaced by the $100 a month benefit.

“These piddling payments do nothing to create spaces or give parents choice,” Heyman says. “The Conservatives-who seem to oppose child care in principle-have done nothing to address long waitlists, parent fees that are too high, nor the alarming shortage of qualified child care workers.”

The BCGEU and other child care advocates have been calling for the federal government to fund a quality, accessible, universal, non-profit child care system. Even business groups recognize the benefit of creating a national child care system, Heyman says.

Heyman points to the positive economic spin off benefits in Quebec, where a provincial child care system costs parent $7 a day. Greater access to affordable spaces has allowed women to return to the work force to help alleviate a shortage of skilled workers, creating the highest participation rate of women in trades anywhere in Canada.

Foreign Investment in the Child Care Sector: Canada’s International Trade Obligations

Steven Shrybman

Download the PDF

Multinational child care comes to Canada
Questions and Answers

Foreign investment imperils child care
APRIL 1, 2008
Read the article online

CUPE has released a legal opinion suggesting that if the federal and provincial governments don’t act fast, a company called “123 Busy Beavers” might make universal child care an impossibility.

The opinion – by noted trade lawyer Steven Shrybman examines NAFTA rules around public services and foreign investment. Paul Moist, Shrybman, National Child Care Advisory Committee Chair Shellie Bird, and Tracy Freitas, Early Childhood Educator and CUPE 2204 member, released the opinion at a press conference Apr. 1.

Canada has for-profit child care, but it’s mostly delivered by small businesses and individuals. There is little – if any – foreign investment.

That could change though, as a company with ties to Australian child care ABC Learning Centres has been buying up for-profit child care centres in Alberta, BC and Ontario.

And if the amount of for-profit child care delivery grows, and if the amount of foreign investment grows too, Shrybman argues, child care would be considered a commercial venture, rather than a “reserved” public service, under NAFTA.

Any new program – such as the national child care program envisioned in Bill C-303 or even the Ontario government’s plan for full-day kindergarden – could be considered a violation of the rights of the for-profit child care sectors’ investors.

A government that still wanted to proceed with a publicly-delivered child care program would have to pay damages to any foreign company whose profits were affected.

Shrybman argues the only way for the federal and provincial governments to preserve their right to create a public child care program is to use it.

“Once the door is opened to foreign investment in the child care sector, it may be impossible for governments to close it,” he argues.

This opinion builds on a 2004 legal opinion Shrybman produced on the former Liberal government’s plans for a national child care program.

Related articles:

Union report sounds alarm over foreign daycare chains; CUPE warns trade rules could be used to block universal public system
April 2, 2008

…. A legal opinion prepared for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, … warns there are risks if Ottawa does not limit foreign corporations – like Australia’s ABC Learning Centres Ltd. – from buying up small child-care operators in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario.

International trade lawyer Steven Shrybman says that under NAFTA rules, foreign investors, if they become significant players as daycare providers, would be able to challenge future “public policy” efforts by governments to regulate or expand child care.

… Right now, governments can limit or ban foreign investment in child care and “preserve future policy options,” he said. They can require a child-care centre to hire locally, provide service to a particular region as a condition of its licence, or ensure that parents and members of the local community comprise a majority of the board of directors.

But if federal and provincial governments do not exercise their right to regulate foreign corporations, those companies will be in a position to sue for damages if future government measures “impinge on those investments.” …  “the prudent course for provincial governments would be to restrict foreign investment in the child-care sector,” said Shrybman.

“If they fail to do that, the future of child-care services in Canada may well be determined not by communities or by governments, but by private tribunals meeting behind closed-door meetings in proceedings at World Bank headquarters in Washington, because that’s where these disputes will be resolved.”….

Vue Weekly – Edmonton

…. Privatization, says Moore-Kilgannon, is the “common thread at the root of so many problems …. Consistent through all these sectors is that they are under constant pressure—waiting lists, cutbacks, poorer quality of services.”

Moore-Kilgannon explains that privatization is part of a familiar cycle: governments reduce spending on public services, sometimes dramatically. The public sees a downturn in services, and demands change. The private sector—often massive multinational corporations—steps in to offer solutions. Those solutions are sold to the public as cheaper and more efficient.even though Moore-Kilgannon says the evidence most often shows they are neither.

Research has shown privatized health, child care and seniors’ services to be more expensive—both to individuals and to governments. A layer of profits has to be skimmed off the service for it to be a viable business venture, and those profits come from either cutting back on wages or quality or by raising fees.

Australian social policy researcher Deb Brennan, an expert on child care, says all of that and more has happened in her country…ABC built their business model upon government subsidies.

Australia used to fund child care as many other developed countries do: giving direct subsidies to non-profit and community-run centres. Now, they simply cut a cheque to parents, who are then able to “choose” the child care services they like best.

Non-profit centres have since all but disappeared, bought up by ABC and other for-profit ventures. Fees have gone up and wages for workers have stagnated. … Last year, ABC received $150 million (CAD) of taxpayers’ money.

Australia elected a new, more left-leaning federal government last fall, but Brennan says it’s made precious little difference in the government’s approach to child care.

“They’ve just announced the government will now cover 50 per cent of child care fees. That’s just an open invitation to for-profit operators to raise fees.”

Brennan says there are no rules constraining how much child care operators can charge. “It’s part of the philosophy of letting the market decide. But the quality and standards are very mixed for the cost.”

… She says Canadians need to take a hard look at market-based models, “to find out whether this model actually delivers high quality early learning and care services. In Australia, it doesn’t.”

…Just six months ago, a division of ABC bought 11 child care centres in Alberta, as the province has boosted Australia-style subsidies for parents. Called Busy Beaver Learning Centres, the ABC subsidiary had also been looking for more opportunities in BC and Ontario….

Environment Plays Key Role In Children’s Readiness For School

Science Daily
Child Development, Vol. 78, Issue 6

The Genetic-Environmental Etiology of Cognitive School Readiness and Later Academic Achievement in Early Childhood by Lemelin, J-P, Boivin, M, Forget-Dubois, N, and Dionne, G (Laval University), Séguin, JR (University of Montreal), Brendgen, M (University of Quebec at Montreal), Vitaro, F, Tremblay, RE, and Pérusse, D (University of Montreal).

Early school success seems to depend largely on children entering school ready to learn, and many policy initiatives have highlighted the importance of preparing children for school entry. A new study finds that children’s environment plays a major role in their readiness for school, suggesting that intervention could help boost readiness in at-risk youngsters.

The study, conducted by researchers at Laval University, the University of Montreal, and the University of Quebec at Montreal, appears in the November/December 2007 issue of the journal Child Development. It is one of the first studies to consider both environmental and genetic influences on children’s readiness for school.

The researchers examined 420 pairs of 5-year-old twins, assessing the children on four measures of school readiness that included identifying colors and shapes; answering questions about spatial position (such as above, below, left, right), relative size (such as smaller, bigger), and order (such as first, middle, last); identifying numbers and counting; and identifying letters and writing. Two years later, the children’s teachers were asked to rate the school achievement of 237 pairs of the twins.

Environmental factors shared by twins in the same family–such as family resources and income, parents’ behavior with respect to learning, and the twins’ child care experiences–were responsible for much of the individual difference in the children’s school readiness skills, according to the study. The influence of the environmental factors was seen over and above the influence of genetic factors. These shared factors influenced school readiness in both general and specific ways, that is, they were found to be significant for each component of school readiness, as well for the core abilities underlying overall school readiness.

Genetic factors played a significant role in the children’s core abilities underlying the four components of school readiness, but the environment shared by twins of the same family remained the most important factor overall. Both genetic and environmental factors were found to influence the association between children’s school readiness and later school achievement.

“Our results have important implications for preventive interventions,” said Michel Boivin, Canada Research Chair in Child Social Development and professor of psychology at Laval University in Quebec City and one of the study’s authors. “They should be seen as a further incentive for continued implementation and evaluation of preventive intervention programs aimed at improving the level of school readiness in children from at-risk families.”

C-Suite Survey – links between child care and productivity and the corporate uptake on the child-care spaces tax credit

Globe and Mail Update

[The Report on Business C-Suite Survey asked executives about their expectations for the Canadian economy and how they see the federal government’s policies affecting productivity in Canada.]

EXCERPTS and a summary of selected key points

Canadian executives are deeply split on social issues such as child care and its impact on employees.

The most recent C-Suite Survey, a quarterly poll of 150 chief executive officers, presidents, chief financial officers and senior vice-presidents, published in the Report On Business section of The Globe and Mail and reflects a diverse set of views in corner offices across Canada.

  • Almost two-thirds of business leaders see a link between child care and productivity, and a resounding majority see quality child care as an important factor in hiring and retaining people, as well as making them productive at work.
  • 75 per cent say their companies are unlikely to take up the new federal budget’s corporate tax credit of up to $10,000 for new child care spaces.

What do you think? Does quality child care give women more time for other productive work, as Derek Evans, CEO of Focus Energy Trust believes? Or should federal policy encourage one parent to stay at home, as Dale Tremblay, president of Saxon Energy Services Inc., argues.

Jennifer Espey, a principal partner with The Gandalf Group, which conducted the survey, was on-line earlier today to answer your questions on the survey and those issues…

Jennifer Espey: Thank you for inviting me to participate in this discussion.

In the most recent survey, we were interested to find out what the corporate uptake would be on the child-care spaces tax credit. The new Conservative government has stated that they would like to create 25,000 spaces per year through this program. In fact, we found that just 3% of executives said they were “very likely” to create child-care spaces under this arrangement. An additional 14% said they were “somewhat likely” to create spaces. And as you note, 77% of executives said their companies were unlikely to create spaces under this tax credit.

When asked why their company was unlikely to create spaces, there were three dominant responses:

  • First, it is not a company priority (23%).
  • Second, our company is too small (21%).
  • Third, it’s not something our company wants to get into/not our problem (17%).

In fact, larger companies — those employing more than 1000 people — were slightly more likely than smaller companies to indicate that they’d create spaces. Nonetheless, just 4% of executives in Canada’s largest corporations said they were very likely to create spaces with an additional 18% somewhat likely to….

In fact, this latest C-Suite Survey in combination with the survey we conducted last March indicates that CEOs are looking for a variety of measures from government, not simply tax cuts. Our last quarterly survey found that CEOs preferred the Liberal income tax cuts to the Conservative GST cuts. This survey found that corporate taxes did not head the list of worries about challenges facing their company or impediments to productivity.

CEOs are worried about human resources/labour, especially in the West, and about the higher Canadian dollar, most particularly in the manufacturing sector.

Among a list of possible productivity-enhancing policies, CEOs favoured personal income tax cuts, efficient movement of goods and services across the U.S.-Canadian border, improving transportation infrastructure, more funding for post-secondary education and a better and quicker accreditation system for foreign credentials. And, almost two thirds (64%) believe that child-care policy has an impact on productivity. So I do think CEOs have a well-rounded view of what businesses and the Canadian economy need to prosper…

Jennifer Espey: …. Unfortunately, I can answer only some of the questions you asked based on our research…

Matthew Spears, Vancouver: I would think it’s common sense that child care makes a mother more productive. Stress adds up, and worrying about someone you love, wanting to check on them all the time, will definitely reduce productivity. But why is such a big deal made of corporate CEOs? They know high finance better than the average person, but not the best policy for Canada. They simply do what’s best for the bottom line, as they are legally required to do.

Jennifer Espey: It does make common sense, I think, Matthew that parents, whether moms or dads, need their children to be well-cared-for in order to be productive in the paid labour market (speaking as a mom).

I think the important thing about knowing how CEOs feel about it is that they set corporate policy that affects the lives of millions of Canadians.

Do they know that child care is crucial for productivity? In fact, when we asked if they thought childcare policy affected productivity, 64% said yes.

When we asked “why?” two responses dominated.

  • Forty five percent said because it allows more people to work. I think this is not only obvious but bears on the human resource problem companies are facing.
  • An additional 10% specifically said it allows more women to work. The second most popular reason was that a “workforce that doesnt have to worry about their kids is more productive.” I suppose the key question we wanted to understand was if recent policy proposals were going to be realized — i.e. the corporate tax credit for the creation of child care spaces. We found that there will little uptake.

Shawn Bull, Toronto: How would someone working the night shift, weekends or in rural Canada take advantage of a government-run national child-care system?

Jennifer Espey: Hi Shawn. Neither this government nor the previous Liberal government proposed a “government-run” child-care system. In fact, the previous government was directing funding to the provinces, which in turn directed funding either to parents or to child-care centres or to licensed family providers of child care. In some provinces, these funds were being used for rural childcare and off-hours child care.

This government is directing its resources to direct payment to parents or to corporations for the creation of spaces. I think it is important to note that neither the previous Liberal child-care plan nor this current Conservative plan has directed funding to “government-run” child care…

…I can tell you that when asked “open-ended” why they thought child-care policy was important to productivity, 45% of CEOs said it allowed more/both people/parents to work while just 10% of CEOs specified “it allows more women to remain/enter the workforce.” There remains a gendered division of labour in society, but the very existence of “parental leave” indicates that we are opening child care up to both genders.

Lorna Finlay, Toronto: I am a professional accountant, and the mother of two kids, ages 6 and 8. Reliable daycare is critical to my ability to be in the workforce. Since I bill for my time worked, if I have to worry about what is going on at home, then I cannot apply myself to my work. Isn’t that the ultimate definition of productivity? Daycare in Toronto is hard to find, and even now I pay nearly $700 a month for care for my kids. I cannot see companies stepping up to fill the gap in daycare access. And Mr. Harper’s new tax credit does not apply to my family, as the Conservatives must think that children over the age of six can just look after themselves while mom is at the office. As for one parent staying home, are these CEOs willing to make their companies more flexible to help pave the way for the re-entry of women into the workforce after they have stayed home with their kids?

Jennifer Espey: Lorna, thanks for your comment and your question.

In fact, there is much controversy and I expect it to continue over child-care policy in Canada. As I’ve noted, the research indicates that companies will not step in and fill the gap to create spaces. I am not comfortable extrapolating our numbers to arrive at how many spaces might be created, but clearly the numbers indicate that there will not be widespread uptake among corporate Canada.

Other than this policy tool — the $10,000 tax credit for corporations/communities/NGOs, the new Conservative child-care plan relies on the demand side — the $1,200 payment to families for each child under the age of 6. As you note, there is no compensation for children over the age of 6.

We did not ask companies whether or not they would have re-entry programs for parents who have stayed home with their children. We do know that many families cannot afford to do this….

I would like to thank everyone for their comments and questions. I am sorry I could not respond to all comments. Some comments were simply outside the scope of what we studied in this latest C-Suite. Although I would love to discuss many comments, I couldn’t use the research to speak to them!

Clearly child care policy in Canada and its effect on our ability to work in the paid labour market is salient.

I also think those comments that asked about how we will value care as a society, and how we will value those who provide care whether parents or child-care workers or educators is crucial. I thank you for that input and trust these discussions will continue.

BC Government Budget Consultation – Reports from the 2005 budget consultation process

BC’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services

First Report
1st Session, 38th Parliament, November 2005
What did the committee say and recommend?

EXCERPTS on Child Care

The Committee received several co-ordinated written and online responses in favour of increased spending on a publicly-funded, community-delivered child care system. In light of the recent agreement-in-principle on early learning and child care between the governments of Canada and British Columbia, we received submissions that asked for the new federal dollars to be targeted at reducing child care user fees and increasing the wages of child care providers. We also heard that the government should evaluate proposals for regionalized governance and local service delivery models for the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The comments we received include:

“We need to build a quality, publicly-funded, community-delivered child care system in Canada. We call on the Finance Committee and the BC government to: use provincial surpluses to: restore the $40 million cut from BC’s own spending on child care since 2001/02; use the federal dollars for early learning and child care to bring daycare fees down and wages up; develop child care policy and spending that shifts the cost of child care from user fees to public funding; and ensure that every aspect of the BC child care plan and every dollar of spending on child care improve and sustain quality licensed child care services.”
(Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC)

“We would like to see a strong commitment to early childhood development, including ensuring that all federal early learning and child care funding goes to its stated purpose, and restoration of the provincial financial contribution to child care to its 2001 levels.”
(First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition)

“Our budget should include support for universal, quality, affordable childcare and services to children and families. Meeting the needs of these children when they are young will save this province so much in the future. There is an extreme lack of childcare in rural communities and not many will take on the role of registered home day cares.”
(Cindy Lise, Duncan)

“I strongly believe that the capacity for local and regional governance for all children already exists in all of the five regions of the province and should be implemented in 2006. We need to go to the people who live in the communities, who know the issues, and for them to find the solutions.”
(Clifford Dezell, Prince George)

Recommendations on New or Expanded Programs

The Committee recommends that:
Point # 6
The government continue to work with the Government of Canada on the implementation of the early learning and child care agreement-in-principle, as well as consider reinvesting provincial funds for child care, and to explore ways of expanding child care options for families in British Columbia.


… the Committee suggests that government examine the possibility of expanded targeted funding for rural school districts, as well as support efforts to address students’ learning conditions; examine funding commitments to child care;….

The Committee recommends that:
The government continue to work with the Government of Canada on the implementation of the early learning and child care agreement-in-principle, as well as consider reinvesting provincial funds for child care, and to explore ways of expanding child care options for families in British Columbia.