Potential gains in Quebec-style child care, Poloz says
Bank of Canada head sees growth opportunity
OTTAWA• The head of the Bank of Canada is pointing to Quebec’s child- care policies as possible tools to boost the entire Canadian economy, thanks to their potential to unlock the greatest untapped resource in the labour force: women.
Bank Governor Stephen Poloz dedicated part of a speech Tuesday in Kingston, Ont., to spotlight Quebec’s affordable child- care model as well as its extended parental-leave provisions.
He showed he’s put some thought into the possible benefits of a comparable pan- Canadian approach.
Poloz credited Quebec’s subsidized programs for raising prime- age female workforce participation to about 87 per cent, up from 74 per cent 20 years ago. In comparison, he said about 83 per cent of prime- age women participate in the national workforce.
“The provincial government identified barriers that were keeping women out of the workforce and they acted to reduce them,” Poloz said in his address at Queen’s University. “If we could simply bring the participation rate of prime- age women in the rest of Canada up to the level that they have in Quebec, that would add almost 300,000 people to our country’s workforce.”
Poloz added the central bank has no role in implementing specific policies designed to break down labour-force obstacles.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget last month announced an option that will give new parents the ability to share either five or eight additional weeks of leave following the birth of a child, provided they also share the job of caring for the baby. The measure is expected to cost $1.2 billion over five years.
However, some economists and critics said while the budget moved in the right direction when it comes to raising female labour- force participation, its failure to announce steps toward national affordable child care likely means a significant number of women will remain out of the workforce.
The Liberal government made promises in previous budgets to spend $7.5 billion over 11 years to help ease the burden of child- care costs. Part of the goal of the funding was to create 40,000 new, subsidized daycare spaces countrywide over three years.
But child- care advocates have said it’s not enough. Before the budget, they asked Ottawa to raise its spending to $ 1 billion annually to match what the Paul Martin Liberals promised more than 10 years ago.
In his address, Poloz pointed to other underrepresented demographic groups that could help the economy. Combined with women, he said assisting more young people, Indigenous peoples, recent immigrants and Canadians living with disabilities to enter the job market could help the labour force expand by half a million people.
“Clearly, that’s a prize worth pursuing.”
Employment gains among women since Quebec brought in its current child care may point the way for growth, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said Tuesday.