Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Childcare - funds YES - institutions NO


Parents need help to raise children in the modern urban settings. The expectations of parents to work, provide elevated opportunity relative to the past and maintain a home is taxing the middle Canadian house hold; particularly women who tend to get burdened to a greater degree with domestic drudgery. Given this reality, it is expected that women are the strongest advocates for expanded government presence in daycare. Women also realize to achieve equality they, more than men, require societal intervention.

My position for years was that no one paid to raise my children, so why should we start now, that view has moderated over the years to the point where I think families need more support in raising children. The challenge I have is that people advocating for daycare support, seem to be thinking in terms of more institutions – government day-cares – more or less as an expansion of the education system. There are a lot of reasons this is a bad idea, government is crumby at running things generally, the service is standardized and never in the history of the world has a government institution loved anything – schools are bad places for children, they have no place in the lives of infants. We can do much better if we fund parents as opposed to institutions.

Please contemplate the graph above in the context of Quebec funding levels.  Let’s assume the cost of infant care to be $1000 / month or $12,000 per year, let’s also assume that there are two infants for a total family requirement of $24,000 per year. In Quebec the government is subsidizing the cost of infant care, for argument sake, in the amount of $12,000 per child per year. In Quebec, the $12,000 dollars is going to fund an institutional daycare. This is consistent with much of the daycare lobby’s intent; it seems that people are asking for an institution to care for their children. This funding solution is fine if you want to send your child to daycare, but it punishes the families that want to access other solutions ranging from live in help, accessing the help of extended family or just staying at home.

Many of the people accessing daycare are working at jobs that pay less than $24,000 / year, they and their children would be better off if they could access the $24,000 directly. When you add in $7,000 in tax, $3000 in clothing, $5000 in transportation and other employment costs, the home caregiver would have to make in excess of $40,000 per year to net out the same benefit financially; worst however, is that they will have had to leave the children in an institution for care, rather than having the children in their own care. Why I wonder is the childcare lobby neglecting this constituency, many people would rather care for their own children; they deserve equal consideration in government policy.

Tax breaks for people who purchase daycare are good, however, you need income to access them so there is a regressive element in deploying them. That is the beauty of the universal child allowance as a solution, it can be deployed at the discretion of the parents and those who can afford it, have it clawed back, whole or in part, at tax time. People should be lobbing to have this expanded to cover early childhood care and then as children access the school system it can be cut back.

We need to support families and early childhood development, the last thing we need are more big government institutions that only serve to have people working more and more for less and less.  We need children to be in loving spaces – institutions fail to make the grade. Be careful what you wish for.     

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