The costs and demand for childcare in Canada

Julia Hornstein
Published: September 4, 2023

Newcomers arrive to Canada at a younger age than the average Canadian age, meaning they tend to have younger families. This means that access to various and affordable childcare options is important not only for ensuring children are cared for but to spur economic growth and social prosperity.

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Childcare participation is associated with greater labour market participation for families, specifically mothers. In Quebec, the introduction of the low-cost universal childcare program resulted in an increase in the labour force participation for women and in the use of paid childcare. Hours worked by women with children rose by 9% from 1998 to 2015, contributing $2.8 billion to gross domestic product.

In the absence of affordable options, newcomers may be forced to stay at home to look after their children. Unlike the average Canadian, immigrants may not have family members or friends to care for their children or yet be able to afford daycare as they settle into their new home.

How to find a childcare option in Canada

There are various options for childcare in Canada ranging from nannies, daycare centres, home daycare and before and after school programs.

Provinces and territories with more generous public funding will generally have more choices for good childcare options, while others may have fewer options.

In order to find a care option that suits your needs, you should start by looking at your city’s website and province’s Ministry of Education website. Both will provide a list of licensed centres in your area. For unlicensed centres or informal care, read community centre bulletin boards and ask other parents in the community if they have any recommendations.

As a newcomer to Canada, you can also check with your local settlement service provider, as many of these providers offer childcare services for newcomer children.

The availability of childcare spots in Canada is limited, and many centres across the country have a waitlist. Each care centre will have their own list and is recommended to get on a waitlist as soon as possible.

Costs of childcare in Canada

In 2022, Statistics Canada conducted a survey on the provision of childcare services in Canada, collecting information on the amount paid for childcare by type of childcare (e.g. childcare centre, family childcare home) and province or territory of residence.

On average, parents paid $7,790 per year for main full-time childcare for their child aged 0 to 5 in 2022. This equals to an average of $649 per month for full-time care, or $31 a day.

Full time care was considered 30 or more hours a week.

When considering children who were in any number of hours of care per week (including part-time care), parents paid an average of $6,565 per year. This equals to an average of $547 per month for part time childcare, or $29 a day.

Parents also paid more for a child aged 0 to 3 than a child aged 4 to 5. In 2022, parents paid an average of $8,146 per year for their 0-to-3-year old’s full-time childcare, compared with an average of $6,880 for their 4-to-5-year-olds in full-time childcare.

Further, the amount that parents paid for their child’s care varied by the type of arrangement.

Parents paid the most for care by a non-relative in the child’s home.

In 2022, parents paid an average of $7,957 per year for a 0- to 5-year-old child whose childcare was full-time centre-based. For a child whose main childcare was a family childcare home, parents paid an average of $7,042 per year for a child of the same age attending full time.

For a 0- to 5-year-old child whose main childcare was full-time care by a non-relative in the child’s home (i.e., a nanny), parents paid an average of $26,669. Comparatively to a child whose main childcare was by a relative other than a parent, parents paid an average of $3,517 per year. The actual cost is likely lower because many parents reported no expenses for this type of care.

Supply of childcare centres across Canada

In April 2022, 12,466 childcare centres across Canada provided full-time care to approximately 565,000 children aged - to-5 and part time care to 152,200 children aged 0-to-5.

Approximately 4 in 10 childcare centres were non-profit organizations, but this number varies widely from province to province, with the most non-for-profit organizations located in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Centres were more likely to have staff with post-secondary early childhood education (ECE) training. Different rates of pay are based on ECE training, as having trained staff has been associated with higher-quality care.

Although they serve fewer children overall, there is a large number of home childcare providers. Between 2008 and 2015, there were about 268,000 self-employed childcare providers in Canada. Interestingly, almost 40% of these home childcare businesses are owned by immigrants.

Use of childcare centers across Canada

More than half of all children aged 0 to 5 participate in childcare, although participation decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Daycare centers are the most common type of childcare for children in this age group. Almost one-quarter of children using childcare are with a relative other than a parent, and one in five is in a family childcare home.

Childcare use during the evening or weekend was more common among one-parent families and less common among families living in Quebec and the Eastern provinces.

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