Statistics Canada’s survey on Early Learning and Child Care Arrangements 2022 found that 42% of Canadian parents postponed returning to work in 2022 due to difficulties in finding child care. According to the latest Statistics Canada report, the proportion of children aged 0-5 years participating in child care in Ontario was lower in 2023 (48%) than in 2019 (54%), but higher than in 2022 (41%). The proportion of parents who used child care and who reported having difficulty finding it in Ontario increased from 50% in 2019 to 64% in 2023. Finding affordable care also remained a common concern among parents, but the percentage of those reporting this concern declined from 54% in 2019 to 39.5% in 2023. The challenge of securing a child care spot in Toronto is no less than the province. Although numbers indicate that there has been an increase in the number of child care spots over the years, parents are facing difficulties to find a spot. The one of the primary reasons behind this is the shortage of child care workers in the industry. In short, given that child care is now more affordable, the growth in the demand for child care has outpaced the growth in child care spaces.
Staffing shortages in child care is not a new issue. However, with the influx of new child care spaces caused by the $10 a day child care, the child care industry needs more workers. The current shortage of qualified ECEs is limiting the positive impacts of the reduced child care fee. Ontario forecast a shortage of 8,500 RECEs by 2026 and although the new legislation aims to bring more equity into the system, the number of RECEs in Toronto has not kept pace with the increase in child care spots.
The accessibility of child care is more than just a family issue. The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario estimated that reduced child care fees in Ontario could increase the core-age female labour force participation rate to between 85.6% and 87.1% by 2027. This would add 50,900 to 98,600 more women to Ontario’s labour force. Improved labour supply is of direct relevance to employers and the business community as this would mean employers are not left grappling with scarcity of skilled workers. As indicated in a recent Statistics Canada report, the non-employment of some parents with children under the age of 6, may be influenced by the costs of child care outweighing the benefits of working. Access to lower-cost child care services may help non-working parents in these circumstances take part in the labour market.
In 2022, the labour participation rate of Ontario mothers with young children aged 0-5 years old was 17.5 percentage points lower than fathers[i]. This gap in the labour market participation of mothers reflects child care responsibilities which tend to be greater at the earlier stages of the child’s life. The child care industry is an important economic driver for a country as the labour force attachment of individuals with children is linked to the availability of child care support. TD Economics has pointed to a range of studies that have shown that for every dollar spent on early childhood education, the broader economy receives between $1.50 and $2.80 in return.
Given the relevance of the child care industry[ii] and its key occupations- Early Childhood Educators and Assistants (ECEA) and Home Child Care Providers (HCCP), this report builds on child care industry literature and provides a snapshot of the current child care landscape in Toronto and Ontario. Drawing on a variety of data sets, the work in this report focuses on what can be done to improve the capacity of the child care industry and its workforce. The report provides an overview of the Home-Child Care Agencies and uses the Canadian Survey on the Provision of Child Care Services to analyse the role of the unlicensed child care sector in Ontario. The report takes a deeper dive into the topic by analyzing the labour market characteristics of the child care industry and its key occupations. Through one-on-one interviews and consultations with advocates and experts in the industry (that included the College of Early Child Childhood Educators, Licensed Child Care Centre, Home Child Care Agency, Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario, and Toronto Children’s Services) the report outlines some key insights on the child care industry. Finally, the appendix reports on the findings of job posting statistics for the child care industry as well as the occupations-Early Childhood Educators and Assistants (ECEAs) and Home Child Care Providers (HCCP) in Toronto.