Canada’s care economy is vast, but largely hidden from public view. Much remains unaccounted in the national GDP. Although it is difficult to measure, in 2019, Statistics Canada valued unpaid household work, which includes direct and indirect care work at between 25% to 37% of the GDP. And in 2021, it valued paid care work at 12.6% of the GDP.
Care work and care issues remain highly gendered in Canada. Women, immigrants, and racialized Canadians dominate the childcare and long-term care sectors. These sectors are also characterized by low wages and employment precarity. Beyond these commonalities, how care is provided, by whom, where and how it is paid for – what we call Canada’s care infrastructure – varies widely across the country. This variation stems from each provincial jurisdiction having its own mix of public and private (for- and not-for-profit) services in child-care, care of elders and care of adults with disabilities.
The care of elders and care of adults with disabilities is particularly affected by gaps in the healthcare system. These gaps result in family caregivers providing considerable unpaid caregiving support. Childcare, on the other hand, suffers from a lack of access to affordable services. Approximately 60% of Canadians with children under 15 receive no paid childcare assistance. Canada’s federal government has recently made childcare a policy priority and worked with the provincial governments to develop a plan for universal affordable childcare. This is a first step but not a complete solution to issues around access.