At almost $10,000 per year, four years of child care costs more than a university degree.
And that’s if you’re lucky enough to find a spot, since British Columbia only has enough regulated child care spaces for 27 per cent of children under six years old.
Numerous studies have shown how society benefits when all families have access to affordable, high quality child care.
British Columbia child care experts have developed a plan that would reduce fees to $10 a day, create enough spaces, and increase the quality of care.
This plan has gathered support across the province – from businesses, local governments and academics.
However, when our political leaders are asked about $10 a day child care, they wring their hands and tell us that unfortunately we can’t afford it.
I bring you good news: the $10 a day child care plan is entirely affordable.
In fact, it would be largely self-financing.
Quebec researchers found large and almost immediate economic benefits from their child care program, launched in the late 1990s.
In a study published last week, I estimate that if British Columbia’s experience were similar, $10 a day child care would significantly increase the number of women in the workforce, boosting the province’s economy by $3.9 billion per year.
This would lead to higher tax revenues, fewer families with children needing social assistance, and reduced reliance on other income-tested transfers.
The provincial and federal governments would see benefits of about $1.3 billion, split close to 50/50 between them.
In other words, the direct returns to government from investing in the $10 a day plan would almost entirely cover the $1.5 billion annual cost.
While a federal-provincial partnership on child care would be ideal, my analysis shows that B.C. can also afford to implement a provincial-only program like Quebec’s.
We’d need to raise a larger amount – approximately $870 million per year – because the boost in federal tax revenues could not be counted to offset the costs.
But $870 million is just two per cent of this year’s provincial budget, and there are a number of ways B.C. could raise these revenues without cutting other programs.
My study models one possible approach: a series of modest personal and corporate income tax reforms staged in gradually over 10 years. For the vast majority of people, this would mean paying only $20 to $80 more per year.
Families that directly benefit from child care would still contribute a large share of the program costs, but instead of paying through exorbitant fees up front, they would pay through a combination of affordable fees and the income tax system.
For the rest of us, pitching in a little is a bargain for what we’d get with universal quality child care: healthy child development, improved social inclusion, more gender equality and economic prosperity.
Iglika Ivanova is a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and author of Solving BC’s Child Care Affordability Crisis: Financing the $10 A Day Plan.