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Child care in B.C. more difficult to find, new data shows

Statistics Canada finds child care enrolment remains below pre-pandemic level, although it has risen since 2022 and 2021; meanwhile, costs, on average, have declined as more subsidies come into effect.
In B.C., the provincial government has promised $10 per day child care; however, rollout has been slow.

Statistics Canada says a lower proportion of parents are utilizing child-care services in B.C. and across Canada this year as compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

Part of the reason may be that parents are reporting it is more difficult to find child care.

In B.C., 58% of parents used a child-care service in 2019 whereas just 55% utilized a service this year.

The statistics agency says Canadian parents are reporting more difficulty finding a provider.

“The proportion of parents who used child care and who reported having difficulty finding it increased from 36% in 2019 to 49% in 2023. Difficulty finding available care remained the top challenge for parents, and the proportion of those reporting this difficulty increased from 53% in 2019 to 62% in 2023,” noted a report on Dec. 5.

One in four parents (26%) not using child care is on a wait list, across the country, up from 19 per cent in 2022 (the first year this information was collected by survey).

One positive from the surveys conducted with parents appears to be a decline in costs as a result of more provincial and federal subsidies. Still, child care remains an expensive endeavour.

“In 2019, 2020 and 2022, parental child-care expenses for children aged 0 to 5 years in full-time care were similar, averaging over $600 per month in each year. In 2023, however, the average amount parents paid for their main full-time arrangement decreased to $544 per month from $649 in 2022. In 2023, nearly two-thirds (65%) of children in care attended full-time,” the report states.

“Expenses for children attending full-time centre-based child care decreased from an average of $663 per month in 2022 to $508 in 2023. This decrease occurred at the same time as many provinces and territories began implementing reductions in child-care fees.”

In B.C., the provincial government has promised $10 per day child care; however, rollout has been slow and recipients are the exception rather than the norm. According to the provincial government’s website, more than 15,000 $10-a-day full-time child-care spaces will be available by the end of this year, up from 2,500 in 2018. However, there are 139,145 spaces in the province at centres that participate in government programs.