Note to Canada: Universal daycare would be a disaster
March 14, 2018 (Cardus) – With even Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz now suggesting that a national form of Quebec's universal daycare model could help more women enter the workforce, it's time to remind Canadians of what such a policy would mean. National, universal daycare decreases the choices available to mothers, makes little financial sense, and is bad policy for children and families.
"Pushing even more mothers into the workforce – regardless of their desires or preferences – is using women as pawns in an economic chess game," says Andrea Mrozek, family program director at think tank Cardus. "National daycare reduces the available choices by throwing the weight of government money behind one particular choice just to raise GDP. National daycare must by definition be coercive because shelling out billions of dollars for a program where mothers can also choose to stay home provides no impetus for the government to take it on."
Mrozek adds that Canada already has an 83 percent labour force participation rate among women, suggesting national daycare would be a frightfully expensive way of raising it even higher.
"How many billions of dollars would taxpayers have to spend year after year to add a meagre four percent to Canadian women's labour participation rate so that it equals Quebec's?" she asks.
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Finally, a national imitation of Quebec's universal daycare system would also be bad policy for children and families. A landmark study by UBC Professor Kevin Milligan, University of Toronto professor Michael Baker, and MIT's Jonathan Gruber found Quebec's system produces several negative outcomes:
- Children in Quebec's system exhibited lower social skills, higher aggression, and higher rates of illness
- Parents of kids in Quebec's system exhibited more hostile and less consistent parenting
- Parents of kids in Quebec's system suffered lower health and lower quality parental relationships
"National daycare isn't done to help women or families. It's done to help the GDP – and even there, it will fail," says Mrozek. "Governments need to stop using gender equity language to cover up what is actually a coercive program that tells families – particularly mothers – what they ought to do."
Published with permission from Cardus.