Across the world, inequality is growing and ordinary families are working harder and harder to keep up with escalating costs and falling supports. This is especially true in Alberta, with the richest rich and poorest poor in Canada.
Early childhood education reduces inequality, lifts kids out of poverty and puts them on track for more opportunities later in life, and creates fairness for working families through inclusive economic growth.
- Of the 84,000 children in Alberta who live in poverty, over two-thirds have at least one parent who works – pointing to the prevalence of low-wage work.
- Half of all households who use food banks are families with kids.
- Often, this is because parents are not able to fully participate in the workforce due to childcare needs, choosing part-time or lower paid jobs that can’t keep up with rising costs of living, especially childcare fees. This is particularly true for workers with non-traditional or variable hours, shift work, on-call duties and similar difficulties in planning predictable family schedules and budgets. Other barriers to accessibility that hit lower income families particularly hard include facilities that are too far away from home, transit or work.
- Studies show the biggest positive impact on lower income children’s cognitive development is achieved in centre-based care, which eliminated social inequalities in achievements up to adolescence in Quebec. For lower income children, the earlier they received centre-based childcare, the more their academic performance improved. In other words, public childcare spots do more to reduce inequality and improve outcomes than subsidies or tax credits.
- Another study found that phased in affordable childcare increased labour force participation by single mothers by 22 per cent, decreasing the relative poverty rate for single mothers by 14 per cent and increasing their median after-tax income by 81 per cent.
- ECEC also helps to grow the economy as a whole in a more equal and inclusive way, as more people get a fair chance to participate in the workforce and to shift their earnings into diverse spending to spur economic growth in different sectors. In Quebec, the economic activity generated by their childcare program generated 1.7 per cent in GDP growth and an extra $2.2 billion in tax revenue that can be returned to government spending on social programs that benefit the public.
- Quality, public ECEC can stop the cycle of poverty and marginalization by giving families a fair chance both to give their kids the best start at an equal education and to fully participate in the workforce and an inclusive, growing economy.