A guide for parents in Canada

The state of child care in Canada

Early childhood education and care in Canada 2019

Since the early 1990s, the Childcare Resource and Research Unit (CRRU) has been tracking the state of early childhood education and child care in Canada. The results were regularly published by CRRU; each report included a historical overview, political and administrative arrangements as well as detailed information about ECEC in each province/territory (all these publications are available online). See the most recent detailed history and overview in Early childhood education and care in Canada 2019.

Trends

The most recent summary of trends in CRRU's Early childhood education and care in Canada 2019: Summary and analysis of key findings is included below.

Growth in regulated child care spaces
Regulated spaces (including family child care) for 0 – 12 year olds increased from 27.2% (2016) to 29.7% (2019). Growth in out of school hours care (111,864 spaces) was much greater than growth in centre spaces for 0 – 5 year olds (45,469 spaces) while regulated family child care spaces decreased slightly by 1,944. The average annual increase in child care spaces between 2016 and 2019 (52,090 spaces) was smaller than the average increase between 2016 and 2018 (74,405 spaces).

Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care
The Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework (IELCC), co-developed by the federal government and Indigenous governance organizations, was announced in September 2019. Almost all provinces and Yukon license child care centres in First Nations reserve communities either upon request or always. Early learning and child care programs including child care centres and Aboriginal Head Start off reserve lands are reported in almost all provinces.

The child care workforce is key to quality and availability
According to the most recently available income data, the Canada-wide median annual employment income for staff working in child care services full time full year was $34,192 in 2015. A majority of provinces/territories have mechanisms for enhancing staff wages– some using wage enhancement grants, some including wages as part of operational funding. 

Public funding for child care has modestly increased
Public spending for ECEC in Canada continues to be very low when compared to need/demand and to international benchmarks. The Canada-wide average spending per regulated space has increased $498 per space since 2016. In 2016, public spending was $3,405 per regulated space; this has increased to $3,903 in 2019. In most jurisdictions, spending per space increased, with the exceptions of Manitoba and Quebec, where it decreased slightly.

Parent fees for an infant ranged from $179/month in Quebec cities to $1,774 per month in Toronto in 2019
In 2019, median parent fees for full day child care centres and regulated family child care in Canada’s larger cities ranged from $179/month in Quebec cities where the provincially set fees are the same for all age groups, to $1,774/month (infant), $1,457/month (toddler) in Toronto and $1,213/ month (preschooler) in Iqaluit. In provinces in which more than 50% of centres charged set parent fees, fees in the market sector were all substantially higher than the provincially set fees (as high as Canada’s highest fees) except in PEI.

For-profit child care is expanding: It makes up 28% of centre provisions
‘‘Auspice" or ownership of child care has historically been a key concern in early childhood education and care in Canada. Canadian child care overall is predominantly not-for-profit but provinces/territories have substantially different shares of not-for-profit and for-profit provision. In 2019, for-profit child care provision made up as high as 70% of total spaces in some provinces/territories while there was very little to no for-profit child care in some other provinces/territories. The proportion of Canada-wide child care centre spaces (full and part day) operated for-profit reached 28% in 2019, up from 27% in 2016. Canada has a small number of publicly delivered child care programs. Only five provinces have small public child care sectors except Quebec, where a large out of school hours child care sector is delivered by school boards.

Shift from community/social services to education ministries across Canada
By 2019, nine provinces/territories had moved responsibility for child care into their ministries of education.

More in this category: « Who pays?