To get Calgary back on track, every resident needs the opportunity to participate in the workforce–but right now this simply isn’t the case.
The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequities when it comes to race, gender and class, among other factors. Marginalized individuals have faced a higher risk of infection and death, and have seen an already precarious economic situation worsened.
Despite an upward trend of men participating in household and parenting tasks over the past two decades, mothers earning a paycheque still devote more minutes per day to childcare than fathers who are not earning a paycheque–it’s clear that the burden of childcare still falls largely on women. As economic austerity measures and emphasis on cost-cutting increase, many of the services and care roles that are cut are downloaded onto individual women in the private setting of the home.
It’s no surprise then that as more and more public services are dismantled, Alberta women’s participation in the workforce has hit lows not seen since the ‘80s. Childcare availability continues to be an issue for families in Calgary, with most childcare centres having long waiting lists for spaces, especially for infants and toddlers.
The highest gender pay gap in Canadian cities exists where childcare takes up the highest percentage of women’s monthly income–and Alberta has one of the highest childcare costs of any province in the country. It follows then that if we want more Calgary women participating in the workforce, particularly in jobs with better pay, working conditions and security, it requires greater investment from our government in childcare.
Currently, the majority of child care centres in Alberta are privately owned; so why is it that Kenney and the UCP are scoffing at the federal government’s proposal to introduce universal $10/day childcare when the research shows that it would help stimulate our economy?
Kenney argues that Alberta needs a childcare solution that works for all parents, not just those who work a 9-5. While there is truth to that, using this as an excuse to implement the usual individualized approach is a mistake. Privatized and individualized childcare has been shown to be detrimental to the workforce participation of women, and worsens the gender pay gap. Better is flexibility and multiple options within a universal childcare system, which will provide more affordable access, security and stability for all.
If we want to improve the lives of Calgarians and get our economy back on track, we need thoughtful, effective policies and concrete practices that seriously address our current realities.
If Kenney and the UCP choose to ignore these facts, we’re going to need leaders at City Council who are willing to push back against the province and work for essential and effective measures.
By: Dr. Maki Motapanyane
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