Quebec's Universal Daycare Policy Affects Division of Labour

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Policy Briefs

Quebec’s universal daycare policy decreases traditional division of labour among parents 

Quebec’s policy providing universal pre-school daycare reduces the proportion of families who use a traditional division of labour in the household, say York University researchers.  

In 1997, Quebec became the only province in Canada to adopt a policy that provided subsidized daycare to children aged four and under. The cost for parents was $5 a day.
In a recent study published by Canadian Public Policy, researchers Glenn Stalker and Michael Ornstein used census data from 1996, 2001, and 2006 to analyze parents’ child care strategies in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, to understand how Quebec’s policy has impacted the responsibility for child care among parents. 
They discovered that from 1996-2006, the traditional family strategy, whereby the father is employed full-time and the mother is not employed and does more child care, declined by 4.2% in Quebec, relative to the rest of Canada.
Couples in Quebec either shifted to strategy where both parents are employed full-time and the mother does more child care, or to a strategy where the father is employed full-time and the mother, part-time.
However, the policy-induced shift of families in Quebec away from the traditional strategy did not increase the proportion of families with egalitarian work and child care arrangements. Despite increased female labour force participation, mothers still do more child care overall.
Stalker and Ornstein also found that the effect of subsidized daycare is smaller than that of parents' human capital. Factors like age and education play the biggest roles in deciding parental strategies. For example, younger and less educated parents are still less likely to equally share childcare responsibility.
Finally, the researchers also discovered that the policy had a much bigger impact on the shift of parental strategies of common-law couples than it did on married couples, even when taking into account age and education. This result suggests that common-law couples are less traditional and therefore more sensitive to policies that address structural barriers to maternal employment.

A summary of the study can be found at: Population Change and Lifecourse Strategic Knowledge Policy Brief #15, Quebec, Daycare, and Household Strategies of Couples with Young Children .


Glenn J. Stalker
Associate Professor; Department of Sociology
York University
416-736-2100 Ext. 66942

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