A growing Canada needs supports for Canadian families who choose to have children. Robust family supports mean more people working, more jobs, and more economic growth.
Robust systems for quality early childhood education and care can improve children’s future skills development, well-being and learning. They can help parents, particularly mothers, enter or re-enter the labour force. They can also contribute to supporting Canadians’ choices on family size.
Canada had 52.2% of children aged 0 to 5 in some form of child care outside of the immediate family (not including kindergarten) in 2020.
Increased levels of participation in early learning and child care.
Participation in early learning and childcare fell between 2019 and 2020 due to substantial pandemic disruptions. However, the federal government took significant steps in 2021, in partnership with provinces and territories, to strengthen Canada’s child care system for future years, and to improve access to, affordability and quality of, child care in Canada. As a result, this indicator improved from “falling behind” in 2021 to “needs attention” this year.
Parental leave contributes to positive child development and improves quality of life for the full family. Accessible and robust leave options can contribute to supporting Canadians’ choices on family size.
Among recent mothers with insurable employment, 87.9% of those living in Canada (outside of Québec) reported having received maternity or parental benefits in 2019.
Increasing trend in uptake of parental leave for mothers outside of Québec.
While there was an uptick in 2019 in uptake of parental leave across Canada (outside of Québec), there was a general decline in previous years. Additionally, this uptick was among mothers who had standard jobs that paid into EI, with those mothers without insurable employment accessing parental leave at a much lower rate. Québec has a more generous parental leave system, which has led to greater uptake in that province. A gap in uptake between low-income and high-income households is expected to widen amid the pandemic, including for racialized, immigrant and Indigenous families.
The employment rate of mothers is a key enabler of Canada’s social and economic progress, and it is essential to addressing challenges of workforce aging, building long-term prosperity, and recovering from the pandemic.
Canada ranked 12th out of 36 OECD countries on maternal employment rate in 2019.
Canada had a maternal employment rate of 76.8%.
Top 10 OECD countries on maternal employment rate.
Threshold: Austria was 10th in the OECD in 2019 with a maternal employment rate of 77.6%.
The pandemic resulted in significant job losses and losses of hours worked for women, which has set back progress toward equity in the workforce and may impact maternal employment in future years. Employment rates for mothers can vary based on age of the child, as well as by mothers’ education level and place of birth. Canada’s renewed efforts to build a Canada-wide early learning and child care system has the potential to help make progress on this indicator.
Child poverty can have a negative impact on children over the long term and be a barrier to children’s development. The rate of child poverty in Canada reflects the quality of living standards for families.
9.7% of Canadians under the age of 18 were in low income in 2019.
Continued decrease in child poverty in Canada, toward the federal government goal to eliminate it.
Canada continued to see improvements in reducing child poverty before the pandemic. There are indications that emergency relief benefits may have offset potential increases in poverty associated with the pandemic, but risks remain that child poverty rates could increase in future years. Racialized and Indigenous children and youth are more likely to live in poverty compared to Canada overall, as well as children living in a lone-parent household.
Well-being among children and youth is key to their future development, health, success, and quality of life. It is critical to Canada's ability to prepare youth for full participation in society and the economy, and to Canada’s attractiveness to those who wish to raise a family here.
Canada ranked 26th of 32 OECD countries on youth well-being in 2018.
The percentage of students who reported always feeling sad was 8.9% in Canada in 2018.
Top 10 OECD countries on youth well-being.
Threshold: Slovenia was 10th in the OECD in 2018 with 5% of students who reported always feeling sad.
Even before COVID-19, Canada had a high proportion of students who reported always feeling sad compared to students in other OECD countries. Children in low-income households and other vulnerable populations were more likely to experience mental health challenges during the pandemic.