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Study: Child care workers in Canada

Released: 2021-06-25

With provincially and territorially mandated lockdowns and restrictions on child care services imposed throughout the pandemic, child care workers experienced a 21% drop in employment from February 2020 to February 2021. This compares with a 3% decline in overall employment.

A new study released today, "Child care workers in Canada," presents an overview of the personal and job characteristics of child care workers in Canada and how these characteristics may have changed over time.

The study shows that nearly 302,000 people were employed as child care workers in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of them were women, accounting for 96% of early childhood educators and assistants, as well as home child care providers. It also found that child care workers were younger than the average worker in Canada, were overrepresented among immigrant workers and were more likely to be self-employed. In addition, the study found that they earned, on average, less than half the income of other workers.

The study, based on data from the Labour Force Survey and the 2016 Census, also examines how this specific group of workers has been impacted by the pandemic.

Immigrants and non-permanent residents are overrepresented among home child care workers

Immigrants and non-permanent residents were overrepresented among child care workers, particularly home child care workers. In 2016, 33% of child care workers were immigrants or non-permanent residents, compared with 25% of all other workers. Those working as home child care providers were much more likely than early childhood educators and assistants to be non-permanent residents (11% versus 1%), and somewhat more likely than early childhood educators and assistants to be immigrants (33% versus 27%).

In addition, child care workers were more likely than all other workers to belong to a population group designated as a visible minority. Specifically, 39% of home child care providers belonged to such a group, compared with 24% of early childhood educators and assistants and 21% of all other workers.

Filipino workers were particularly overrepresented among home child care providers—21% of all workers in this occupation in Canada were Filipinos, compared with 3% for all other occupations.

Quebec has the highest proportion of child care workers

Based on data from the 2016 Census, Ontario (35%) and Quebec (33%) accounted for the largest share of child care workers, reflecting their larger proportion of the total employed population. When the distributions of early childhood educators and assistants and home child care providers are examined separately by province and territory, early childhood educators and assistants were more likely to work in Quebec; however, Ontario had proportionally more home child care providers. In Quebec, the higher number of early childhood educators and assistants relative to home child care providers can be explained in part by the high number of organized child care establishments (centres de la petite enfance).

The ratio of child care workers to the total employed population also varied by province and territory. In 2016, Quebec (2.4%) had the highest proportion of child care workers among all provinces and territories, while Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest (1.2% each).

These differences can be explained in part by provincial and territorial differences in child care programs. For example, Quebec's partially subsidized child care program offers the lowest cost of child care in Canada and, as a result, a greater proportion of parents use child care services in this province. Other factors, such as the age structure of the population, family composition and the employment characteristics of mothers, at the provincial and territorial level, may also explain these differences.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Child care workers as a proportion of the total employed population, by province or territory, 2016
Child care workers as a proportion of the total employed population, by province or territory, 2016

In 2019, one in four child care workers is self-employed

Data from the Labour Force Survey show that child care workers were more likely to be self-employed than other workers. In 2019, 25% were self-employed, compared with 15% among all other workers.

Child care workers who were paid employees were less likely than other workers to be members of a union or to be covered by a collective agreement (26% vs. 31%), and to have a permanent job (82% vs. 88%).

Furthermore, they earned less than other workers overall. In 2015, the average annual employment income of all child care workers ($24,100) was less than half that of other workers ($53,800). This difference was particularly pronounced for home child care providers, whose earnings ($17,300) were notably lower than those of early childhood educators and assistants ($26,800).

Despite the recent employment losses in this sector during the pandemic, the number of child care workers is expected to grow, in response to the planned investment in the 2021 federal budget for a new Canada-wide early learning and child care plan.

  Note to readers

Two sources of data are used in this study: the 1991 and 2016 censuses of population and the Labour Force Survey from 1987 to 2019. The data used in the study are restricted to the employed population, aged 15 and older.

The 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) is used to identify child care workers.

Early childhood educators and assistants (NOC code 4214): Early childhood educators plan, organize and implement programs for children aged 0 to 12. Early childhood educator assistants provide care for infants and preschool- to school-age children under the guidance of early childhood educators. Early childhood educators and assistants lead children in activities to stimulate and develop their intellectual, physical and emotional growth and ensure their security and well-being. They are employed in child care or daycare centres, kindergartens, agencies for exceptional children, and other settings where early childhood education services are provided. They can also be self-employed. Supervisors of early childhood educators and assistants are also included in this group.

Home child care providers (NOC code 4411): These workers care for children on an ongoing or short-term basis. They care for the well-being and physical and social development of children, assist parents with child care, and may also assist with household duties. They provide care in their own homes or in the home of the child, where they may also reside. They are employed by private households and child-care agencies, or they may be self-employed.

"All other" occupations: These are all workers other than early childhood educators and assistants and home child care providers.

Products

The article "Child care workers in Canada" is now available in Insights on Canadian Society (Catalogue number75-006-X).

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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