Inequality in Childcare: The Case of Nannies

Project Profiles

Resolving Data Challenges to Understand Unregulated Childcare in Canada

Comprehensive, nationwide microdata will play a critical role in developing a clear picture of unregulated childcare in Canada

by Elizabeth Dhuey

Childcare isn’t just a cornerstone for the healthy development of our youngest citizens and their families; it’s a vital cog in the societal machine. By providing parents and guardians with the flexibility to engage in personal or professional endeavours, childcare services play a crucial role in supporting a dynamic and thriving community. Nonetheless, issues of equitable access are rife in the Canadian childcare landscape. For informal childcare providers, the lack of regulatory oversight presents its own problems.

Our current project aims to better understand nannies within Canada’s unregulated childcare sector. This segment of the labour market is often overlooked and difficult to measure in the official national statistics. Restricted access to administrative data, the sporadic nature of available data, and the vast, yet often informal and unregulated, landscape of childcare services all contribute to major challenges erecting roadblocks to a clear understanding of childcare in Canada. These challenges underscore the need for a more nuanced approach to understanding and supporting the complex ecosystem of childcare services.

We hope to shine a light on this often-overlooked labour market segment. Given the scarcity of data on this informal economy, we’re leveraging technology to peel back the layers. By mining data from popular online platforms like, we’re getting a unique glimpse into the job market of nannies—people who play a crucial role in many families’ lives yet remain largely invisible in official statistics.However, while rich and current, the data we’re gathering might not fully capture the breadth of the nanny world. It’s likely skewed toward those who are tech-savvy or prefer digital job markets over traditional word-of-mouth networks.

But fear not—we have a plan!

By marrying this web-scraped data with comprehensive, nationwide microdata on childcare, we aim to paint a complete and more accurate picture. This innovative approach will allow us to adjust for any biases in our initial dataset, ensuring our insights are robust and reflect the real dynamics at play. Through the lens of modern computational social science, we’re set to offer a more nuanced understanding of childcare provision across Canada, making invisible work visible and informing better policy decisions.

Project Leads

Photo by Maxim Tolchinskiy on Unsplash