Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador have announced that parents who access licensed child care will pay $10 a day as of this Spring.
“This is welcome news for families who have access to a licensed child care space but unfortunately that’s the case for far too few,” says Morna Ballantyne, Executive Director of Child Care Now.
Families are projected to save on average $6,800 per year in Saskatchewan, $6,300 per year in Newfoundland and Labrador, and $3,000 per year in Manitoba.
Ballantyne says the lowering of parent fees makes creating more licensed programs an even higher priority. Families should not have to compete with each other for spaces, she says.
Child Care Now says that a major barrier to improving access to licensed child care is the lack of qualified early childhood educators willing to work in the early learning and child care sector. Many existing programs are operating at less than full capacity because operators cannot fill staff positions.
“Governments should focus first on the big problem of staff retention,” says Ballantyne. “Efforts to train more early childhood educators won’t do much good if graduates from post-secondary ECE programs end up choosing to work in higher paid sectors to look for work in higher paid sectors of the economy.”
Child care advocates want the federal, provincial and territorial government to fund and implement significant improvements in the wages and working conditions of early learning and child care workers as part of a comprehensive government-funded strategy to address retention, recruitment and qualification challenges.
“We want to see much more than the stop-gap measures like ad hoc salary top-ups or one-time bonuses,” says Ballantyne. “We want to see immediate, medium and long-term measures introduced to compensate early childhood educators for the real value of their labour, and to improve job satisfaction and working conditions of early learning and child care. This includes but is not limited to giving those who work in child care paid preparation time, access to career ladders, support for ongoing professional learning and development, access to proper resources and funding to enrich the learning environments of the children.”
Child Care Now recognizes that some provincial governments are taking steps to address low wages through the introduction of provincial salary grids that set a floor for the hourly pay of early childhood educators.
“Setting minimum wage standards is a step in the right direction but unfortunately the wage grids that have been announced by the governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick do not provide sufficient rewards for qualifications and experience, or for longevity,” says Ballantyne.
According to the Newfoundland and Labrador wage grid, a newly hired Level II Early Childhood Educator will earn $25 per hour. After a year, that education will receive a 50 cent raise but has to work another five years to receive a pay bump.
The Nova Scotia wage grid has the majority of ECEs earning less than the current living wage in the province of $23.50 an hour.
When the Nova Scotia grid was first announced, ECEs and advocates across the province questioned why the wages of Level I, II, and III ECEs would be capped at $21, $23, and $24 per hour respectively. Bobbi Keating, a director at a child care centre in Halifax, described the grid as “disappointing” and “a slap in the face.”
“To recruit and retain the workforce, the child care sector must offer proper pay, benefits, and pensions. Offering pay that is below or only slightly above the living wage is wholly inadequate. Offering no pensions or health benefits to a workforce that cares for our youngest citizens is completely unjust. If governments fail to recruit and retain, the workforce crisis will only worsen and classrooms will continue to sit at lowered capacity or empty altogether,” says Ballantyne.