A Solution for “Empty Desk Syndrome”

August 9, 2017

– Catherine Holt is the CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. 250.383.7191, CEO@victoriachamber.ca, www.victoriachamber.ca.

GREATER VICTORIA – Employers around Greater Victoria are increasingly facing the spectre of empty desks and work undone. Employees with children are making hard decisions around working, modified schedules and what’s best for their child. The result is a severe drain on productivity and economic growth that could be avoided.

Child care is a fundamental workforce requirement. The lack of affordable, government-regulated child care spaces in Greater Victoria is having a direct impact on employers and workers. Members tell us that, in an already tight job market, they are having to adapt by allowing workers to reduce their hours and modify their start and end times and days of work to compensate for the lack of child care.

With regard to affordability: For a working family, child care and housing are typically the two highest expenses. According to Victoria Child Care Resource and Referral (CCRR), the average monthly cost of full-time child care for kids under 5, as of February 2017, was between $812 and $1128 per month.

That adds up to more than $10,000 a year per child and at least $40,000 from birth to Kindergarten. The problem is exacerbated for a family with more than one child and continues with the need for after-school care and care during school vacations.

With regard to availability: The 2016 Canada Census data reveals the gap between our regional population of children and number of child care spaces. The most acute gap is for infants and toddlers where we have roughly one licenced child care space for every eight children.

The gap is likely to expand. Between 2011 and 2016 our population of adults likely to have children (25 to 39 year olds) and our population of children under 11 both grew 9 percent.

A shortage of early childhood educators is a major factor in this shortage. Licenced child care operators can only offer as many spaces as they can staff. According to CCRR, average wages, as of June 2016, are under $20.00 per hour which is not attractive in a city with the second lowest unemployment rate and one of the highest costs of living in the country. But, if child care workers’ wages increase, the care becomes even more expensive for the parents who are footing the bill.

To overcome this drag on our economy and to ensure children have a safe and stimulating start in life, child care needs the same level of government attention and investment as the other fundamental underpinnings of our economy such as education, transportation and health care.

Some important steps the Province can take are to:

  • Reach an agreement with the federal government to get our share of the funding now available under the National Framework on Early Learning and Child Care;
  • Expand publicly funded spaces for early childhood education training;
  • Include child care as part of the K to 12 education system which would allow access to school land, which has already been paid for by the taxpayer, for affordable childcare facilities; and
  • Develop a subsidy program similar to Quebec’s, which has increased the percentage of parents in the workforce, their after-tax income, their contribution to tax revenue and the number of children in regulated child care. (See the following description of the Quebec program)

Child care has lingered on the fringes of government programming and funding because, rather than an economic issue, it has been characterized as a women’s and children’s issue with archaic undertones about whether or not women should be in the workforce or at home. A fully functioning modern economy ensures safe, regulated child care is available so that a working life is possible for every parent.

Upcoming Events:

  • Thursday, August 10th | Prodigy Group Mingle | 5-7PM | The Mint (1414 Douglas St.)
  • Thursday, Aug 17th | Business Mixer | 5-7PM | Coast Victoria Hotel & Marina by APA (146 Kingston St.)
  • Thursday, September 7th | Summer Social Series: Harvest Dinner | 6-8:30PM | Woodwynn Farms (7789 W. Saanich Rd.)



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