Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised parents that he would provide funding to the middle class as a way to help offset the expensive costs of raising a child. Problem is, the government doesn’t exactly know how much it actually costs to raise kids in Canada.
This promise was made as part of Trudeau’s platform for his 2015 election, along with a pledge to end child poverty across the nation. However, a new report released by Campaign 2000 shows that this guarantee is impossible if the government doesn’t even know what it takes to raise a child.
Campaign 2000 is a coalition meant to end child poverty across Canada, and the group believes that if the government cannot come up with a true dollar cost of raising a child, they cannot accurately make the necessary changes.
“Everyone who cares about the quality of life of Canada’s children should be concerned about the cost of raising them because it is one of the key determinants of children’s economic well-being,” the report explains. “The importance we place on this information demonstrates how our country values its families, its children and its future prospects. The services we provide to families hinge on the accuracy of these numbers.”
Additionally, Campaign 2000 believes it is important to establish an unequivocal number as a way for families to accurately plan whether or not they can afford children, to accurately calculate child support payments, and to compensate foster parents correctly. Not only that, but it would be supremely helpful for those who qualify for the income-tested Manitoba Child Benefit and income-based Canadian Child Benefit.
It’s actually quite common for a country to know the established cost of raising a child. Our southern neighbors in the U.S. pay on average of $13,000 per year from birth until 18, as per the U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. This encompasses shelter, food, and other necessities, but not post-secondary education.
Parents who want their children to go to private schools can expect to pay even more. This is increasingly common, as more children are attending specialized preschools and preliminary educational programs than ever before. Between 1990 and 2000, the percentage of 3 to 5-year-olds enrolled in these programs jumped from 59% to 65%. And we all know how expensive it is to send a child to daycare or even preschool, which can easily cost thousands of dollars per month.
Despite these ballooning costs, Canada has no official estimate of lifetime childcare costs. There has not been any formal research since 1998, and even then the results were inconclusive. Back in 2013, the Fraser Institute released a report saying it could be possible to raise a child for about $3,000 a year, but many parents dismissed this finding because it didn’t include basics like shelter or childcare costs.
It also doesn’t include the hundreds of other things parents will have to do to nurture and care for their children over a lifetime. On top of bare necessities like food, shelter, and child care, most parents hope to save for retirement or even pass something onto their children one day. While most experts say you should have a will drawn up by age 40 at the latest, many parents are struggling to save for the future at all. That’s especially true for women and mothers, who do an average of six hours of unpaid work every day (men do just 30 minutes, if any).
So how exactly would Canadian officials come up with a useful estimate? Proponents suggest using a “market basket” method, which will look at the cost of a “basket” of goods and services that is representative of what parents would need to raise a child. This basket would differ slightly in each region of the country, and it would need to be updated annually to reflect ethnic and/or cultural practices, along with disabilities and health problems.
Campaign 2000 suggests that some of this information can be found in census data.
And let’s not forget that Canadian birth rates are going down. Canadian parents are choosing to have less children, a trend that’s been worsening since the 1970s. This past year there was an average of 1.6 children per family, which has decreased consistently since 1971 when it was 2.1%.
The only outlier of this example was Nunavut, which had the highest fertility rates across the nation. Women in that territory have on average 2.9 children, and this growth is what fuels the territory’s whopping 12.7% growth.
“One of the major reasons people are having fewer children is a combination of circumstances and biology,” Nora Spinks, CEO of the Vanier Institute of the Family, explained to the Toronto Sun.
In recent years, more women are choosing to begin their family later in life. For perspective, the average age for a first birth in the 1960s was just 22, whereas today it’s in the early 30s.
“The longer you delay having the first, the shorter the window you have to have more,” adds Spinks. “There’s a point at which you can no longer conceive or conceive as efficiently as when you were younger. So that’s where the biology comes in.”
On average, women are the most fertile between the ages of 20 and 24, and choosing to have children later than this age can result in increased difficulties getting pregnant. However, many women choose to wait to start a family until they are financially stable. Knowing exactly how much it will cost to raise children could help women make these difficult decisions.
For now, immigration is driving the country’s population growth. In fact, immigration has been the driving force behind population growth in our nation since 1999, and a full two-thirds of current relocation is due to these new Canadians, Statistics Canada reports.
With this in mind, immigration is set to account for more than 80% of our country’s population increase by the start of 2031. What’s worse? If the fertility rates continue to decrease, Canada’s growth could be almost zero within 20 years.
That makes it more important than ever for young people to have all of the information they need to make realistic family planning decisions.