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Immigrant and Refugee Women in the Childcare Sector

December 28, 2022

BC is taking great strides towards a more equitable and inclusive childcare system. On November 30th, 2022, Canada-Wide Day of Action for Child Care, we celebrated and supported childcare professionals and educators. However, it is important to recognize the vital role that immigrant and refugee women play in the early learning and care workforce every day.

Did you know that 96% of childcare workers in Canada are women, and that a significant proportion of these workers are immigrants or non-permanent residents? In fact, 1 out of 3 (33%) childcare professionals and educators is an immigrant or non-permanent resident, compared with just 25% among all other occupations. This is particularly true for home childcare providers, who are even more likely to be immigrants or non-permanent residents compared to Early Childhood Educators and Early Childhood Educator Assistants.

Moreover, compared to workers in all other occupations, childcare workers are more likely to belong to visible minority groups. For example, 39% of home childcare providers and 24% of Early Childhood Educators and Early Childhood Educator Assistants are racialized, compared to 21% of all other workers.

You may also be surprised to know that childcare workers’ average annual income is less than half of that of workers in all other occupations. While workers in other occupations earn an average of $53,000 per year, Early Childhood Educators and Early Childhood Educator Assistants earn $26,000 per year, and home childcare providers earn just $17,000 per year. Despite the vital role they play in the early learning and care of our children, childcare professionals and educators often struggle to make a living wage.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these challenges, with employment among childcare workers declining by 21% in the year following the pandemic’s arrival in Canada.

Time to Make a Change

On December 7th, 2022, the long-awaited Canada Early Learning and Child Care Act was introduced in the House of Commons. This legislation is a key step in fulfilling the Government of Canada’s commitment to establishing a Canada-wide system of affordable, accessible, inclusive, and high-quality childcare. However, it is also clear that improving working conditions and wages for childcare professionals and educators is necessary in order to create such a system.

As one of the Building a Child Care System That Works for Immigrant and Refugee Women project participants expressed in our previous blog post, “We need to take care of childcare workers. Give them better pay and working conditions. They are the people taking care of our children, the greatest gifts in our lives. They play an essential role in their development”.

To promote gender equity and support immigrant and refugee women in the sector where they represent one third of the workforce, PIRS started the Building A Childcare System That Works for Immigrant and Refugee Women project – a 2.5 year initiative funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada. The driving force of the project is the Childcare Leadership Group (CLG) – a community of practice of immigrant and refugee women interested in leading positive change in the sector. The second cohort of CLG is currently working on identifying, co-designing, and implementing ideas to foster system change, as well as, engaging with stakeholders and decision-making tables to advance gender equity and amplify immigrant voices in the childcare sector. 

Learn more about the Building A Childcare System That Works for Immigrant and Refugee project and Childcare Leadership Group by visiting the project page here. Let’s work together to create a brighter future for immigrant and refugee women in the childcare sector, and the children and families that they serve! 

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