Social infrastructure, particularly child care will be central to Canada’s economic recovery: Brock expert

Immediate financial support of the child-care sector will be a key factor in Canada’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, says a Brock University Sociology professor.

Associate Professor Kate Bezanson, an expert in social policy and political economy, says as the federal government continues to manage the immediate health, social and economic challenges of COVID-19, it also needs to support child-care services if it wants to see a lasting recovery from the pandemic.

“In the short term, if regulated child-care centres don’t have targeted supports now to meet their operating costs, many of them will fold,” Bezanson says. “If that happens, when the crisis ends, we will have very limited capacity for those working at home now to return to the labour market.”

Bezanson recently joined Andrew Bevan, a former Chief of Staff to a Premier of Ontario and a federal Leader of the Opposition, as well as Sheridan College Early Childhood Education Professor Monica Lysack in authoring a policy report titled “From stabilization to stimulus and beyond: A roadmap to social and economic recovery.”

A summary of the paper was published recently in First Policy Response, and the trio have also written an opinion column about the issue which is expected to be published this week.

The policy paper identifies key elements that Bezanson and her co-authors believe should inform government decisions around stabilization, stimulus and recovery periods including: fostering social solidarity; placing care at the core of policy decisions; encouraging collaborative federalism and federal leadership; and centrally, investing in social infrastructure with child care as a building block as a key recovery tool.

“The monumental challenge posed by the COVID-19 crisis requires us to react in real time, but also to plan now to build the infrastructure we’re going to need so that its available to move to recovery and allow us to come out the other side,” she says. “This means learning from the mistakes of past economic crises, and investing in social and not just built infrastructure in order to stimulate both women’s and men’s employment.”

Bezanson says that the initial impacts of COVID-19 pandemic have been gendered.

“Stats Can data from March found that a disproportionate share of those who were laid off or had hours significantly reduced were women,” she says. “For women still working — primarily from home — many are having to balance paid work demands with taking care of children.

“Women have additionally borne this crisis with particular severity as they are the majority of essential front-line health care and social service workers.”

Bezanson says it will be crucial that the care sector — and especially regulated child care —  be at the core of the recovery phase of dealing with the crisis.

“The result of that not happening is you will have parents struggling to find care at a time when they are eager to return to work,” she says. “This, in turn, would stunt the speed of the economic recovery.”

Bezanson and her co-authors argue that the federal government should also create the promised Childcare Secretariat office, which would become the “clearinghouse for efforts to support, shore up and build a much-needed child-care system,” they write. “This will result in the creation of new jobs within the system — and draw more women into the labour market, essential to a strong sustainable recovery.”

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