PRESS RELEASE: ONTARIO IS CLOSED TO LOW-INCOME WOMEN
The Ontario Budget released today fails to address the underfunding and glaring inequalities in Ontario’s childcare system says a spokesperson for the South Asian Women’s Rights Organization, an organization of low-income immigrant women from Toronto’s east end.
“During the throne speech, the government talked about an Open Ontario but following this budget, Ontario will still be closed to the women in my community.”
“Our organization,” says Sultana Jahangir, “ worked along with childcare advocates, the trade unions and others against the plan of the McGuinty government to cut $63 million in childcare subsidies. 400 women in our neighbourhood signed petitions against cuts. We held several public meetings, met with our MPP’s and went to Queens Park.”
“We are glad the government isn’t going ahead with the cuts. Many people were concerned the whole childcare system could collapse. But maintaining the status quo isn’t acceptable to low-income women. Most women in immigrant and racialized communities like ours are already excluded from the system. For most of us there is no childcare system.”
Jahangir points out 100,000 children in Toronto’s low-income families are entitled to fee subsidies but there are only 24,000 subsidies. 17,000 kids are on the official waiting list.
“There is a law in Ontario that says low-income families are entitled to fee subsidies. But funding for subsidies is capped at 24,000 kids for Toronto. Today’s budget stabilizes this level of underfunding and inequality.”
Immigrant women, she says, only have access to low wage jobs that don’t pay enough for childcare. Even unlicensed care costs at least $100 per week. For a woman with two kids, after childcare and travel cost her net is $1.30 and hour. Low-wage women can’t work without childcare subsidies.
“South Asian immigrant women only have a 56% labour force participation rate, so our families are poor. Lack of childcare is blocking us.”
Commenting on the calls for budget restraint because of the deficit Ms. Jahangir said,
“The Ontario government says there is no money but this isn’t the problem. Ontario’s economy is twice as big as Quebec’s, but Quebec can afford to spend twice as much as Ontario on childcare. Political will is the problem in Ontario.”
The way to pay down deficits and to pay for social programs, says Jahangir, is to get people working.
“There are 100,000 low-income women locked out of the economy who could be helping to create wealth. Access to childcare for low-income women also pays for itself in reduced dependency rates, increased labour participation rates and in increased productivity for women workers. The government should let our women work.”
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