March 08, 2006

Stats, Women and Child-Care

On the front page of The Star today there is an article about how there is many more women doing things on their own; raising children alone, living on their own, etc. This article is accompanied by a selection of statistics from a few different sources.

Some of these stats make compliment each other. With divorce apparently up by 400% since the 1960's and marriages down by 8% since 1981, the statistic that there are double the number of single women with and without children seems to make sense. One stat seems odd is that in 2003, 31% of unattached women aged 16 and over were in the low-income category.

This number may seem fairly high if taken at face value. However, it's the beginning age of 16 that makes me curious. Why would a stat looking at unattached women begin with 16 year olds? I'm assuming that when questioned about being "unattached" that would mean not married or common-law. At 16, I don't think I ever knew of a female being legally attached. In fact, I would think that between the ages of 16-19, the majority of women are not legally attached. For the purposes of the stat wouldn't this put that age range at a disproportionately high volume when compared to many of the older age groups? Furthermore, at this age range, doesn't it make sense that they are also in the low-income category? Since almost all women between the ages of 16-19 are in secondary school or recently graduated, having a job that pays significantly more than minimum wage seems somewhat unrealistic. And if that is the case, wouldn't this also skew the numbers for the poll? I'm not trying to undermine the significance of the poll, I'm just trying to understand it better.

The last stat of those provided is the most startling of them all. It also sheds some light on why child poverty in Canada is such a pressing issue. The stat claims that 38% of households headed by single mothers are in the low-income category. That is over 1/3 of single mother households. This is a stat that I think is also important because Canada is about to find out what kind future child-care has in this country.

In April, when Parliament resumes, there is going to be a battle between a nation-wide child-care program that offers more spaces, which are desperately needed or a parental allowance of $1200, which provides options to parents. From where I stand, I think the national child-care (NCC) program provides both spaces and options.

For one thing, for years there have been complaints about the lack of spaces at affordable prices. The NCC provides money to the provincial governments to create the needed spaces at a reasonable cost. The allowance only provides parents with $1200 per child under the age of 6. However, this $1200 is taxable which means its actually less than $1200. It also doesn't provide more spaces for child-care. So even if you wanted to send your child to a centre, there's a good chance that either it won't cover the cost of the placement or there won't be one for your child. In other words, the taxable allowance more likely limits your options than provides you with more.

There are a couple positions that are often brought up in regards to the child-care debate. The first is that the government is going to offer tax-incentives to businesses to create in-house child-care and second, that some parents have a concern over having the government 'raise' their child. With the first position, the idea has been tried before in Canada. It didn't work then and I have my doubts it will work now. Companies aren't in the business of day-care. It's not as simple as just clearing out the staff lunch room and hiring a baby-sitter. Actual space would have to be created, then certified specialists would have to be hired and paid. There are a host of liabilities that would also need to be covered. The problem is not that there is some kind of tax incentive involved but that these companies probably don't want to deal with these processes. I doubt very much that the tax incentive would cover the entire cost the offered child-care because if that were the case, wouldn't it just be better for parents that the government stick with a national child-care program? Maybe not because it may be cheaper by not having one. Though, that doesn't solve any problems that we're currently facing.

In terms of the second position, that some parents are concerned over the idea of government raising their child, I don't think the argument holds any weight. If parents are truly concerned about their children being raised by someone else then don't send them. Just because there is a national child-care program doesn't mean your child has to be sent to one. If it's just a concern about the government in particular running the centre then children shouldn't be going to any day care at all since it is all regulated by the government in the first place. It would also be interesting to know whether or not these same parents have a concern over their child going to school. Let's face it when your child goes to school they are learning both academic and social skills. Public and private schools are full of education that goes beyond math, language, etc. Teachers are considered the third most important influence on a child's life after parents and friends. Where do most children meet friends? At school. This means that two of the three most important influences on a child's life are found at school. School then can be considered to have a very big part in raising a child. So how would sending your child to a public day care be any different than sending your child to school?

When looking at the statistic of single moms in the low-income category, this raises some serious concerns. There's a good chance that many of these women can't afford child-care and therefore may not be able to work and have to live off the welfare system or are working only low-paying part-time jobs, etc. If they were to receive only the $1200 allowance, this still wouldn't afford them a better opportunity because of the lack of spaces and affordability. Having a greater number of spaces at better rates may allow for these women to pursue better paying, full-time work. And isn't this ultimately a way to partially correct the problem that more than 1/3 of single mothers are in the low-income bracket and there is a child poverty crisis in Canada? I would argue it is. Poverty in general is a problem that plagues many Western nations despite the fact that these nations have more than enough money to correct the problem within their own borders. It's time that Canada did something positive to correct this serious issue and right an overdue wrong.

3 comments:

Candace said...

"Since almost all women between the ages of 16-19 are in secondary school or recently graduated, having a job that pays significantly more than minimum wage seems somewhat unrealistic."

2 words - teenage mothers, the bulk of which, I'd bet, drop out of school. Without parental support, they are on welfare.

As for the "national child care program" it is still theoretical only. Both Ontario & MB used the first payment to boost salaries. There are no new spaces yet. That $1200 is in addition to tax incentives covering the cost of setting up new daycare spaces (and you don't get the incentive until you've created the space - radical concept - but I'd bet non-profit daycares could get a loan against the credit).

Kyle said...

teenage mothers... I thought of that (I was growing up in Brantford when it had the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Ontario= first thought) but the stat only says unattached women, not unattached mothers. I can only go on what it says.

I do realize that the provinces getting the money have some liberty with how to direct it. But there was an article in the Mississauga News last week that mentioned that there is a plan for space creation that may need to be scrapped if Harper dumps the program. So while it is theoretical, it seems at least Mississauga was going to use it wisely. As well, my understanding was that the tax incentives were mainly geared towards general companies to create space for their employees. I knew that companies wouldn't get the incentives if they didn't build the spaces. My point was that history has shown that generally companies don't even bother for a host of reasons.

Sean said...

not to mention that there are reports out there that daycare centres are thinking of raising their rates if/when Harper institutes his $1200...wish I could remember where I read that, probably the Toronto Star...

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"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

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