Wage bump for Ontario’s early childhood educators still won’t meet cost of living in the GTA: report

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Published November 16, 2023 at 2:34 pm

child care workers wages increase

Early childhood educators in Ontario will see a larger-than-expected pay increase in the new year but the bump still won’t bring their wages above the minimum required to have a comfortable life in the GTA, according to a recent report.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce made the announcement at the Busy Bees Childcare Center in Brampton on Thursday, saying the minimum wage of early childhood educators (ECEs) in most licensed child care centres will climb to $23.86 an hour starting in 2024, up from a planned increase to $20.

Lecce said 75 per cent of all ECEs in the province will benefit from the wage increase, which will create wage parity with ECEs working in kindergarten classrooms and could help attract and retain workers, as the ministry has warned the province could be short of some 8,500 ECEs by 2026.

The move will also ease shortages that advocates say are hampering growth of the national $10-a-day program.

Fees have already been cut by 50 per cent for families with children in the 92 per cent of licensed centres and home daycares that opted in to the program, and they are set to be further lowered to an average of $10 a day by 2025.

The 19 per cent pay increase in the first year will also help create wage parity with early childhood educators working in kindergarten classrooms, Lecce said. The province’s new wage floor for ECEs will continue to rise by $1 an hour each year, up to $25.86 in 2026.

“We have a ton of workers, who in a world of choices, you could work in a school making 15, 18, 20 per cent more, often people will pursue those options and we’re seeing a bit of a cannibalization of our ECEs from our child-care centres into our kindergarten programs,” Lecce said.

And while the increase is a step in the right direction for child care advocates, with the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario and the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care calling for a salary scale of at least $30 to $40 an hour for registered ECEs and at least $25 an hour for non-ECE staff.

According to a recent report by the Ontario Living Wage Network (OLWN), workers in the GTA need to make more than $25 an hour to live comfortably and afford the cost of living–an 8.2 per cent climb from $23.15 in 2022.

Child-care centres have traditionally relied on parent fees to largely fund operations, including staff wages, but under the $10-a-day program they cannot raise fees, and had asked the province to fund raises for ECEs to attract and retain them.

By 2026, the Lecce says there will be 86,000 new spaces under the national child-care system.

Setting a wage floor of $18 an hour in 2022 and increasing it by $1 a year up to $25 was part of the agreement the province signed with the feds in joining the program.

“This is very good for families, for operators and, frankly, for our economy,” Lecce said.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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