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,
Daycare, and Household Strategies of Couples with Young Children .
Glenn J. Stalker
Professor; Department of Sociology
416-736-2100 Ext. 66942