Budget promises child care but misses opportunities in care economy

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Playground and swing set. Image credit: hpgruesen/Pixabay

The growth potential from a care economy was not too evident in the first budget of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. 

The big news, and good news, is the promise to spend up to $30 billion over five years for child care. Still, it's not clear when the five years will begin, or if it all can be spent, since it requires provincial negotiations. These negotiations might be tricky for a whole host of reasons related to provincial jurisdiction, but most significantly, it will probably only begin to be negotiated after the next election. 

Getting this new child-care spending could take quite some time and might not occur across the country. No spending for this is listed in the next year's budget. 

But when it happens, it will be a fabulous change in Canada and one that politicians have recognized as necessary since the 1988 election. The current budget shows its significance to the economy; it will create more child-care workers (up to 240,000) and it will also create significant economic growth and raise GDP by as much as 1.2 per cent.  

But other than child care, growth is seen in the budget as coming from the usual industries and sectors of the economy through support for business, infrastructure investment related to construction projects, and support for specific industries in distress from the pandemic. All of these things are important to get people working again and business back to where they were before the pandemic. 

But the government missed the opportunity to make significant investments in other parts of the service sector that are related to care. Any investment in care is much more effective in increasing employment than other sectors. The usual way governments attempt to increase growth is to stimulate construction (which has a high employment multiplier) so comparisons of care work with construction are appropriate.

Because care work is labour intensive and has relatively few non-labour inputs (like machinery and raw materials), money invested there has a bigger impact on employment. Studies with input/output analyses in other countries have shown that investment in elder and child care has an employment impact that is three times greater than investment in construction. Part of this is because it is such a low-wage industry, but even when assumptions of similar wages are included, care work still provides a greater employment effect. This is not to say construction is not important, but to show that the care sector is very important.

The care sector is large, it's dynamic, and it is growing fast in Canada. Also, as the pandemic showed so clearly, Canada is a poor provider of care relative to other countries, and tends to treat the workers in parts of this sector abysmally. 

The two biggest disappointments for those who were hoping that the recovery program would focus on care issues, is the absence of funding for a pharmaceutical program, and very little for long-term care. The amount for long-term care is comparatively little over a long time -- $3 billion over five years, but this includes $824 million in the fiscal year just ending, and $516 this fiscal year. So basically, subtracting the emergency funding for last year and this year, it leaves $1,660 million for the three subsequent years.    

The bad part of the budget is that there is no attempt to have a long-term care program that is nation-wide. This too should be negotiated with the provinces, as is the child-care program. People in Canada died at rates unseen in any other countries because of the haphazard nature of provision and regulation of long-term care. Its workers are exploited, and so are those who need this care. Canada should do lots better. The budget mentions an attempt to get "standards" in this sector in the future. That is necessary, but a poor substitute for a real program coordinated by the federal government. 

Serious structural problems became evident throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This budget addresses one of the very crucial care issues that the Liberal Party has promised many, many times over many, many years -- child care. And it looks like once again, there will be an election with this as a promise. It has looked so possible many times in the past; let's hope this time will be different. And, let's hope if it succeeds, subsequently government will recognize that there is a care economy, and it is large, and should be supported.

Marjorie Griffin Cohen is a feminist economist who is professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University.  She is also part of the care economy initiative: Thecareeconomy.ca

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.