Reality Check on Quebec Daycare: Research Finds Low Quality, High Costs, Negative Outcomes, Worse Family Finances

Feb 2, 2006
Helen Ward, President
Kid First Parent Association of Canada
604-291-0088

Who cares about the children and families in Quebec?

Outright lies go routinely unchallenged about the Quebec daycare system. “Don’t worry—be happy!” is the mindless new Canadian way. We are all asked to blindly adopt—and pay for—Quebec’s daycare-ist model and ask no questions.

The tax-funded daycare lobby claims that Quebec’s $7-or-less-a-day daycare system is high quality, universal, good for kids, good for the economy, good for family finances (especially low-income families). Politicians parrot these unsubstantiated statements, loudly thumping the daycare-ist gospel. But these claims contradict all the evidence available. Preferentially funding daycare may be good for the finances of daycare executive directors and bureaucrats. It’s also profiting corporations that can hire parents—whose financial support was reduced and transferred to daycare—from the increased low wage “flexible” labour pool.

Kids First does not do research, we try to compile, analyze and expose the research others do. For free. Taxpayers pay millions of dollars for the collection of the data used in these evaluations. Let’s take ownership and look at some of our expensive data and put it to use.

1—NOT HIGH QUALITY

From:
“Quality Counts! Assessing the Quality of Daycare Services Based on the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development,” Dec 2005, by the Institute for Research on Pubic Policy (IRRP)
Summary of report
Full report

Over 2,200 children are in this study of daycares (p6 of full report):

  • 61%—minimal quality, not meeting learning needs
  • 12%—inadequate quality (worse than minimal)
  • 27%—good or higher quality

2—NOT GOOD FOR CHILDREN’S OUTCOMES

From:
Universal Childcare, Maternal Labor Supply and Family Well-Being” by Michael Baker (University of Toronto), Jonathan Gruber (MIT) and Kevin Milligan (University of British Columbia)

The only study of the outcomes for children of the Quebec system states: “We uncover striking evidence that children are worse off in a variety of behavioral and health dimensions, ranging from aggression to motor-social skills to illness. Our analysis also suggests that the new childcare program led to more hostile, less consistent parenting, worse parental health, and lower-quality parental relationships.” (p1)

“The consistency of the results suggests that more access to childcare is bad for these children.” (p4)

Child:staff ratios have been raised since the data used in the above study was collected. Regulations now allow 8 children age 1 per staff member. This would worsen outcomes.

ECEC 2004
ECEC 2001

3—NOT HELPING LOWER-INCOME FAMILIES

From:
“Quality Counts! Assessing the Quality of Daycare Services Based on the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development” Dec 2005, Summary of report

  • Preferentially subsidizing “privileged” families:

    “The children who attended daycare were generally from more privileged backgrounds than the children who did not.”

  • “less privileged” children twice as likely to be in poor quality daycare:

    “Children from less privileged families were more likely to attend a daycare of inadequate quality. One in five daycares attended by these children were considered inadequate in terms of quality in contrast to one in ten for children in better-off families.”

From:
Quebec Family Policy: Impact and Options,” Robert Baril, Pierre Lefebvre and Philip Merigan

“The authors assessed the impact of provincial government programs on the budget of Quebec families and estimated that compared with the pre-reform situation, 72 percent of families would receive less financial assistance from the provincial government in 1998—findings in sharp contrast with the claim advanced by the Quebec Minister Responsible for Family Affairs that 95 percent of families would gain from these reforms.” (p2)

“The study also shows that the amounts allocated to families under Quebec’s family allowance programme are clearly inadequate in the fight against poverty: people receiving social assistance were allocated no additional benefits, and low-income families received no more than $60 per month in additional support.” (p2)

“Families with an income of less than $32,000 were financially better off before the reforms when their payments of $20 per day were eligible for federal and provincial income tax relief.” (p2)

“The results also show that the financial loss for families increases with the number of children.” (p5)

4—NOT ECONOMICALLY BENEFICIAL TO PROVINCE

Quebec’s official daycare expenditure is at $1.56 billion. This is not complete as some costs are in other budgets. http://www.childcarecanada.org/ECEC2004/tables_big/TABLE13.pdf

From:
Universal Childcare, Maternal Labor Supply and Family Well-Being” by Michael Baker (University of Toronto), Jonathan Gruber (MIT) and Kevin Milligan (University of British Columbia)

“The taxes generated from the increased maternal labor supply fall far short of paying for the increased childcare subsidies.” (p4)

5—NOT UNIVERSAL

From:
The Gazette, June 23 2005, p A26

“Whereas Quebec set out to create a universal childcare system in 1990s, it is not yet universal because it does not yet provide enough spaces.” Dr. Martha Friendly, Coordinator of the HRDC/SDC-funded Child Care Resource and Research Unit and top daycare lobbyist

From:
Jocelyn Tougas, “Reforming Quebec’s Early Childhood Care and Education: The First Five Years” Appendix A, p 74

Less than 22% are in the “universal” system: excluding those without a parent who “works or studies,” 49.2% of children are in non-parental care, and 45.3% of these are in government-regulated care.