4. Child care as regional economic development

Every Canadian region has an economic development department whose main purpose is to attract business, sports teams or cultural landmarks to spur economic activity and create jobs. Child care, if it appears at all, is at the bottom of economic development lists. Sociologist Susan Prentice of the University of Manitoba thinks it should be at the top. Her 2004 study of Winnipeg’s child care sector demonstrated its multifaceted role in a regional economy: as an economic sector in its own right with facilities, employees and consumption from other sectors; as labour force support to working parents; and for the long-term economic impact it has on the next generation of workers.7

Winnipeg’s 620 child care facilities provide care to about 17 percent of the city’s children. Gross revenues are over $101 million a year; 3,200 people are employed with total earnings of $80 million annually. Prentice found more jobs in child care than in the entire Manitoba film industry, and about as many as in the better-known bio-tech and health research or the energy and environment sectors, which are priority areas for development in the city.

Child care is also a job creator. Working with the same analytical tools used by the finance department, Prentice found that for every child care job, 2.15 others were created or sustained. Child care also allows mothers and fathers to work. Parents with children in child care earn an estimated $715 million per year.8 Overall, every $1 invested in child care provides an immediate return of $1.38 to the Winnipeg economy, and $1.45 to Canada’s economy.

In 2007, Prentice also analyzed the child care sector in a rural, northern and Francophone region of Manitoba. Those studies identified higher returns, with every $1 of spending producing $1.58 of economic effects. In contrast to the Winnipeg report, Prentice found a lower employment multiplier: every two child care positions created 0.49 other jobs.9

Figure 4.4

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