Child Care in Canada

In Canada, child care takes different forms, including unregulated and regulated family care and regulated services such as school-age and part-day programs and full-day centers.


Statistics show that unregulated care outside and in the family home accounts for 15 and 6 percent, respectively. Regulated care makes for 12 percent while parental care takes the largest share - 60 percent.

Regulated Family Care

This type of child care is available in all Canadian territories and provinces, and caregivers look after preschool aged kids, toddlers, and infants. The main benefits include small sized groups and the option to place siblings in the same group. The homes of caregivers are subject to regular inspections and parents may be eligible to receive fee subsidies.

Regulated Services

Full- and part-time programs are available and are both governed by territorial and provincial regulations. Full-day child care centres care for school-aged and preschool children, toddlers, and infants. Fees are usually the highest for infants. All centres are licensed with the exception of religious schools and specialized private schools in some places. There are multiple benefits for children and parents, one being that caregivers have the required level of education, skills, and training. Another benefit is the fact that full-day centres offer diverse activities that are suitable for the child's age and stage of development. They are also subject to regular inspections and are required to meet minimum standards. In addition part-day programs are offered by preschools and nurseries and are subject to licensing requirements and regulation. Unlicensed programs are only available in Yukon and Saskatchewan.

In general, regulated services must meet a set of standards for equipment and premises, maximum child-to-adult ratios for different age groups, as well as caregiver educational and training requirements. Follow for more financial news.

Unregulated Care

It is usually middle- and low-income families that resort to this type of arrangement due to the high cost of child care in Canada. Informal arrangements are not subject to inspection and do not have to meet provincial or territories minimum standards. At the same time, complaints about illegal services are subject to investigation by the educational authorities.

Private and Public Child Care

State-run facilities account for only a small percentage and are usually operated by the regional, municipal, or educational authorities. While public funding is available, it varies widely by territory or province. Private centres may be eligible to receive funding and are usually managed by the owner or a board of directors. There are two types, non-for-profit and commercial services. The former are community based and use extra revenues to make improvements and provide better quality services. Parents have a say in major decisions, including staff members, services, and programming. Commercial child care services operate for profit and are managed by corporations, partnerships, or individual caregivers. The revenues are kept as profits. Other types of arrangements in Canada include care by nannies, grandparents, and other family members.


When it comes to affordability, fees vary widely by type of arrangement and location. Fees can be as high as $1,750 in places like Toronto and as low as $150 in Quebec. The fees for preschool, toddler, and infant child care are the highest in British Columbia and Alberta and the lowest in Quebec. The share of women's income that goes toward fees also varies widely and is the highest in Brampton, Surrey, London, Toronto, and Windsor. It varies between 32 and 36 percent. It is the lowest or in the range of 4 - 6 percent in places such as Montreal, Quebec City, Laval, and Gatineau. Toys

Is the Publicly Funded Child Care in Canada Idea Sustainable?

In Canada, more than 80 percent of women with young kids under 5 work full- or part-time. Policy makers and businesses need female workers in light of the fact that there will be some 1 million job openings in the coming years. However, is the publicly funded child care idea sustainable in Canada?

What Supporters Claim

Supporters of the idea point out that today women make for some 61 percent of university graduates. This makes keeping women in the workforce essential as to fill in job vacancies that require advanced skills and postsecondary education. Access to publicly funded day care will make it easier for them to return to work, especially in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto where infant care is sky high. Monthly fees are the highest in Toronto, at about $1,750, followed by Vaughan and Mississauga in Ontario, where fees are at about $1,400. To top this, a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows that the cost of child care has gone by 20 percent in some cities in just 3 years, from 2014 to 2017. This means that many families will be unable to afford to pay for daycare, and women will stay out of the workforce to look after young kids.

What Opponents Say

Opponents point out that female employees with advanced skills and postsecondary education are in the middle- and high-income bracket. The median income in Canada is at $70,000 a year while employees in the high-income bracket (10 percent of Canadians) make $134,900 on average. Five percent of Canadians in the high-income bracket make $179,800 on average. In comparison, Canadians with low incomes earn between $22,000 and $25,000 a year. Some 6.2 percent of Canadians are unemployed. And while families in the middle and high income brackets are likely to be able to afford child care, workers with low incomes are not. This means that it will be mainly families in the low-income and low-tax bracket that will benefit of and possibly abuse a publicly funded child care system. This is unfair to employees with higher incomes who are also tax payers, especially if the publicly funded system is universal. What is more, such a system will not be sustainable in the long run. To begin with, it will face long waiting lists as is the case in Quebec. And in Quebec, the public daycare system cannot be called universal in light of the fact that about 1/3 of preschool children attend a Centre de la petite enfance. Besides, affordable child care is not the only factor that contributed to women returning to work in Quebec. The slow population growth during the last 30 years means that there are more job openings for women to fill vacancies. The tighter employment-insurance eligibility criteria also contributed to many women joining the workforce. What is more, participation rates for women 25 to 54 years of age increased to 87 percent in Quebec but the national average is already at 83 percent. Opponents also question the quality of care based on the Quebec's model. A paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows evidence that children attending public daycare have worse health and social skills compared to children in other arrangements.