A recent report released by TD Canada titled, “the Space Between Us”,  says the significant increase in labour force participation among women with children under the age of six since 2020 can be attributed to two factors: the rise of workplace flexibility and the significant reduction in parent fees for licensed child care brought in through the federal government’s 2021 child care budget initiative.

The report warns, however, that as more mothers of young children join or rejoin the paid labour force,  demand for child care, which is already high, will grow and outstrip supply. 

TD Senior Economist Francis Fong, who co-authored the report, found a four percentage point increase in the labour force participation rate among women with children under the age of 6 since 2020 translates to 111,000 additional working women. It has led to a worsening scramble by parents to find child care arrangements while child care centres struggle to find and retain qualified early childhood educators. 

The report raises concerns that the demand for child care spaces exceeds the provinces’ expansion targets, predicting a gap of between 243,000 and 315,000 spaces for children under the age of six by 2026. 

While the federal government’s new Early Learning and Child Care Infrastructure Fund may cover the cost of some of the new spaces required, it alone will not be enough to remedy the problem of child care availability. 

“We need to see every province and territory create comprehensive, publicly managed expansion plans that are developed hand-in-hand with real investments in the wages and working conditions of early childhood educators,” said Morna Ballantyne, Child Care Now’s Executive Director. 

Ballantyne said it is inefficient and unfair to keep relying on existing not-for-profit providers to figure out how to build and staff more spaces, “At the end of the day, more in person (work) is going to put more onus on child care to be able to pick up the slack for families, in particular, mothers,” said Francis Fong in an interview with BNN Bloomberg.  

“Thankfully, we’re now in a situation where all the provinces and territories have now signed these provincial and territorial agreements with the federal government to offer 10 dollars per day child care. But the real challenge we’re facing is that the number of potential folks that will demand child care could potentially exceed what the provinces have committed to,” Fong continued. 

As post-pandemic workplace realities change and the Canada-wide system is rolled out, it is clear that the demand for child care will continue to grow. In order to keep parents, caregivers and ECEs in the workplace, significant action must be taken to create comprehensive child care and early learning expansion plans aligned with the voices of child care advocacy organizations, community leaders, parents, and early childhood educators.