Child care researchers release deep dive into the world of child care for precarious employees

Non standard work and child care in Canada

Child care in Canada is expensive, hard to find and too often unreliable. But what if you’re among the estimated 30 per cent of parents whose working hours fall outside of a regular day shift?

A new report by researchers from the University of Guelph, University of Manitoba, Brock University and the Child Care Resource and Research Unit looks at the predicaments these parents face and how they put together child care packages to look after their kids.

The authors reviewed existing literature on the subject, analyzed general social survey data and conducted interviews with about two dozen families whose jobs necessitated irregular, often unpredictable hours and shift work, and with child care providers who have set up programs to accommodate ‘non-standard hours’.
Here are some of the report’s findings:
  • Parents working ’non-standard’ hours tend to be younger with lower family incomes.
  • Coping with finding care as often as not involves tag-team child care, one partner (typically the mother) dropping down to part time work, and reliance on other family members (typically grandparents).
  • Regulated, centre-based care benefits parents who work ‘irregular hours’ but these parents struggle to find ‘wrap around’ arrangements for before the centre opens and after it closes..
  • While there are some provincial government initiatives to develop regulations or policies for non-standard care, support levels are still “very low”.
Many of the programs developed to address the needs of parents seeking child care outside ‘normal’ hours were temporary, pilot projects that have ended. Providers have struggled to find and retain staff and to maintain the quality of care while meeting the changing and unique needs of parents.
The authors argue that overall, governments need to consider how working “unsocial work hours” affects people generally and take steps to better protect parent workers from having to work unsocial hours.
They note that more research needs to be done into what is best for children when it comes to their parents’ work schedules.
They call for major reforms in early learning and child care policy to improve access, affordability, quality, flexibility and inclusion in child care and list concrete ways in which federal, provincial and territorial governments as well as employers and academics can get us there, starting tomorrow.