CBC Digital Archives

Working women and daycare

Daycare is now a fact of life for many Canadian families but for most of the past century it's been the subject of fierce debate. Turn-of-the-century day nurseries were considered little more than "child farms" by many, while politicians of the 1950s blamed juvenile delinquency on daycares and "crèches." More recently a debate has swirled around the merits of universal daycare versus traditional parenting. CBC Archives looks at the changing face of daycare, from its charitable beginnings more than a century ago to the ongoing fight for a federally funded system.

media clip
With the first Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada about to get underway, the CBC quizzes a group of stay-at-home mothers about motherhood, feminism and daycare. With more and more women entering the workforce, daycare is beginning to become a reality of the "working girl."
This CBC Television clip talks to both traditional mothers and a day nursery worker who disputes the notion that daycare "means that tax money is being spent while mothers are off earning money for baubles or extra television sets."
• A few weeks before this clip aired, the federal government launched a commission to look into the status of women during Canada's centennial year. Nicknamed for its chairwoman Florence Bird, the Bird Commission was charged with exploring a number of issues, including women's increasing role in the labour force, sexual discrimination, abortion and daycare.

• According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 4 women held down some kind of work outside the home in 1967. That number had doubled from 1962.
• By the late 1960s daycare (then known as day nurseries) had largely shed its charitable status and its association with organized religion. It was still considered a service for single working women and families who couldn't afford to keep their children at home.

• Though it would be a few years before child care advocates began to push for more and better daycare, the demand for spots was already exceeding the supply. As Barbara Chisholm describes in this clip, there were up to 70 children for every spot in Toronto at the time.

• In 1967 women in the labour force could take only six weeks of maternity leave, which meant that they had to arrange child care for their infant children or leave their jobs. This changed in 1977, when the Canada Labour Code was changed to allow for 17 weeks of maternity leave. The following year the same law was amended to prohibit layoffs due to pregnancy.

• In 1985 the federal government added 24 weeks of unpaid maternity leave to the legislation, meaning employers had to hold a woman's job for 41 weeks. The leave was also opened up to either the mother or father.
• In 2000, parental leave was extended to 12 months as part of the federal Employment Insurance program -- at an estimated cost of $9 billion a year.

• Other federal benefits introduced to aid working families included the Child Care Expense Deduction in 1971 (which allowed parents to a tax deduction for a portion of their child care expenses) and the Canada Child Tax Benefit in 1997, which was a supplement targeting working class families.
Medium: Television
Program: Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: March 28, 1967
Guest(s): Barbara Chisholm, Margaret King
Host: Gordon Donaldson
Duration: 8:25

Last updated: November 18, 2014

Page consulted on November 18, 2014

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