Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Daycare: personal issue or social issue?

Listening to the latest Meet the Suppressed podcast by bloggers Greg Staples of Political Staples, Greg of Sinister Thoughts, James Bow of Bow, James Bow, and Bob Tarantino from Let it Bleed, I was struck by the fact that each of the three men present (James was absent--ironically because he was home with his newborn daughter) was talking about the daycare issue from a personal point of view. This meant that Greg Staples kept bringing up the fact that his family had decided to keep one parent home to take care of their kids, Greg of Sinister Thoughts countered that by saying that he and his wife had put their children in daycare, and Bob Tarantino said that he didn't "have a dog in that fight."

All that was certainly a nice, anecdotal break from the endless discussion about Scott Reid's "popcorn and beer" gaffe, but what was missing--just as it's been missing all along--was a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of daycare as social policy, rather than as individual family choices. Unlike the Blogging Gregs, daycare will never be a personal issue for me, but it's still absolutely relevant to me in terms of my desire to live in a decent society that treats its young citizens well. Saying "I don't support a national daycare policy because I don't put my kids in daycare" sounds a little too much like "I don't support a national healthcare policy because I don't get sick very often."

So here goes: Although I have serious problems with the Liberals' proposed non-program, I do support some sort of social program in which daytime childcare is subsidized in some way. Everything I know about the way society functions suggests that we would all be better off if poor single parents were able to go off to their low-wage jobs every day without having to worry too much about where the money to pay for their kids' care was going to come from. And as with healthcare, we'd also be better off if this system were universal rather than simply targeted at poor single parents, because that would put enough children of middle-class, high-earning parents into the system to keep quality high.

I don't have any children, and I'm not going to be having any children, but I'm still perfectly happy to kick some of my tax dollars into a well-implemented program that helps people who have made different choices breathe a little easier at night. Because as nice as it would be if caring for our society's children were nothing but an issue of personal choice, the real world doesn't
actually work that way.


Mike said...

Check out this first:

its a great overview by a coupld of Ecomonimists on daycare. They present it as a 'public good' economically speaking, in that, you don't need to directly use the system to derive benefit from it. They also point out that and shoot down some of the myths the conservatives like to raise.

And you are bang on in your assessment - these guys estimate that (in 2003) fully 5% of our GDP was generated by working mothers:

"..we estimated the contribution to G.D.P. of mothers with young children now in the labour force at about $53 billion, about 5% of G.D.P. When we further considered the reduction in investment in the long run in a now smaller economy,
the estimate of the loss was $83 billion , or about 7.5% of G.D.P. Put another way, a large part of Canada’s global competitiveness is due to the productivity of its working parents . It “costs too much” not to have these parents working."

In other words, a good daycare system is promotes productivity and is good for the economy as a whole. That means everyone, whether you have children or not or use a daycare system or not, benefits from the system.

Ask how many conservatives supporting cutting the GDP by 7.5% and see the answer. Sinking $10 billion into a system to create $50 to $80 Billion in growth seems like a good return on investment to me...

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the NDP childcare plan yet? I don't think they posted it until this morning:

The NDP plan to improve child care and fight child poverty has three main elements:

* A Child Care Act to ensure that federal funding for child care is targeted at licensed, high-quality, non-profit child care.

* $1.8 billion invested in child care next year, with annual increases of $250 million for the next three years. This would create 200,000 additional spaces in the first year, with another 25,000 spaces annually after that.

* An increase in the federal child tax credit of $1,000 phased in over four years in order to help lower-income families cover child care costs and meet other essential expenses.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


That's a great resource! Thanks.


Yeah, it looks like I preempted the NDP by about two hours. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised I was thinking along the same lines as the federal party I'm a member of. :-)

James Bow said...

Yeah, if I had been there, I might have pointed that out. Though I doubt I would have been as detailed or as edited as this blog post:

AJSomerset said...

I have always pushed the idea that the reason to have a national daycare program is to let people get to work, which has a clear public benefit.

Unfortunately, this gets perverted into "force mothers into the workplace as a form of social engineering."

That may be why you don't hear that angle being pushed more often. It's safer, in politics, to talk about "choice" and "quality" than to go anywhere near a discussion that can turn into "a woman's place" or "social engineering."


I have linked to your comments on my blog article Blogging Tory's Don't Get Day Care.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I don't know about that--if you don't mention the economic side of things at all, people are left with the question "why should I support somebody else's kids?" I think we can come at the issue from both sides.