776,000 children live in child care deserts in Canada: Report

June 28, 2018

OTTAWA—An estimated 776,000 of non-school-aged children (44%) live in child care deserts in Canada, according to a new study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

For the first time in Canada, this report maps a complete list of licensed child care spaces against the number of children in a given postal code. Similar to the food desert concept, child care deserts are postal code areas with three or more children per licensed space. The proportion of children living in child care deserts by city is ranked in the table below.

“Rising child care fees are a barrier for parents and can fluctuate wildly depending on where you live. Now we have found there is even greater variability in child care coverage rates than in fees,” says study author and CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald. “Policies to improve access to child care will clearly have to take both fees and availability into account.”

Among the study’s findings:

●  No matter the province, cities with populations over 100,000 have higher rates of child care coverage compared to rural areas;
●  Licensed child care coverage rates are highest in Charlottetown, P.E.I., and many of the bigger cities in Quebec (e.g. Montreal and Quebec City), with a low proportion of kids in deserts;
●  Still, 9% of children in Quebec City live in child care deserts;
●  The lowest rates of coverage are found in Saskatoon, Sask., Brampton and Kitchener, Ont.. In fact, every postal code in Saskatoon is a child care desert;
●  40% or more of kids in Toronto and Winnipeg live in child care deserts;
●  In Calgary and Metro Vancouver, more than half of children live in child care deserts; almost all postal codes in Surrey and Burnaby, B.C., are deserts;  
●  In most cities outside of Quebec there are lower rates of child care coverage in suburban areas than in the downtown core.

“Improving access to affordable child care will help close the gender gap, spur economic growth, and ease the burden on struggling parents,” Macdonald adds. “But it will do none of these things if we just focus on adding spaces without considering where those spaces are most needed. Clearly the priority should be addressing Canada’s many child care deserts that are otherwise parched for care.”

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Child Care Deserts in Canada is available for download on the CCPA website. See the map online to explore child care deserts by postal code across Canada.

For more information or interviews contact Alyssa O’Dell, CCPA Media and Public Relations: 613-563-1341 x307, alyssa@policyalternatives.ca or cell 343-998-7575. 

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