By: Ryan Young
(Originally Published in The Telegram, June 13, 2015. See Link at Bottom)
The front page of The Telegram on June 5 proclaimed that “population issues are getting to a crisis point" Over and over in the media we hear about the need for a population growth strategy due to our continued declining population, and according to all indicators we are nowhere close to turning those numbers around.
But what I fail to understand is the reason why, when we discuss population growth in this province, there is no mention of the need for a provincial child-care strategy that encourages residents to have more children.
The Conservatives have tried offering financial incentives to encourage more births, but a thousand dollars and tiny tax incentives have failed to turn the tide on population issues. Most recently there has been a push to attract more immigrants to the province, but that, too, has had limited success as many of these newcomers quickly move on to bigger centres such as Montreal and Toronto where there are more opportunities for them and their families.
Through my work with child care, I have heard from hundreds of parents in this province, many of them professionals, who want to have more children but they are holding off due to lack of accessibility and the high cost of quality, regulated child-care spaces.
Many professionals, most often women, are being forced out of the workforce if they do decide to have children. We know this, yet for some reason we are still not looking at child care as a part of the population growth solution.
There will always be the handful of people who will ask why their tax dollars should pay for child care. The answer to that question could be quite complex if we were to get into all of the social benefits of quality, universal child care, but let’s keep the discussion purely along economic lines.
Study after study, all over the world, has concluded that investing in child care nets a return of $1.50 to $2.50 into the economy for every dollar spent. Even without taking into account that early education has been proven to create a better educated, less incarcerated society, the benefits of putting parents back into the workforce just makes sense.
When you add in the fact that the reason we need to grow our population is to grow our tax base to keep the economy strong, it makes even more sense that we would want our future workers to be highly educated, productive members of society. That is the capitalist dream after all.
Before we start coming up with radical plans and expensive programs to attract a wave of new residents to the province, why don’t we try supporting our own families and try to grow our population from within? All you have to do is listen to the people and remove the barriers that are holding young families back.
Sure, immigration should be part of the plan for our province to grow and diversify, but the real issues that are holding us back need to be addressed if we are going to get back on track. Newfoundland families want to have more children, they just can’t afford it. Remove the child-care barrier and the population will grow.
It really is that easy.