Written by Paul Kershaw. Published by the Human Early Learning Partnership (University of British Columbia). 2011.
According to Dr. Paul Kershaw, raising a family in Canada has been more difficult for this generation than it has been for parents of past generations. In his report, Kershaw presents three factors that are contributing to the decline in the quality of life for todays young families:
1. Household incomes for young Canadian couples have flat-lined since the mid-1970s, after adjusting for inflation.
2. Household incomes are stagnant even though far more young women earn employment income today.
3.All the while, average housing prices in Canada have skyrocketed by 76 percent (Kershaw, 1, 2011).
Kershaw argues that these factors, combined with fact that many parents do not have enough time to spend with their children and the money needed to enroll their children in child care programs puts young Canadian families in a difficult position. In the report, the author compares the financial situations that children and young parents face to those in previous generations. He also spends time discussing the governments shortcomings in areas related to family well-being, including the policy adaptations or lack of adaptations associated with paternal and maternal care periods, workplace expectations that keep parents away from home, and a tolerance for high rates of child poverty.
Because of these issues, Kershaw proposes what he calls the New Deal for Families, a strategy designed to alleviate the difficulties parents face as they raise a family and to improve overall child well-being. The result of this plan is what Kershaw calls a Time Dividend that will improve parents' work/life balance, increase the amount of time they can spend with their children, and "enable and expect personal responsibility because moms and dads alike will have enough time to raise their kids and earn a living to [provide for them](Kershaw, 3, 2011). This dividend will require three policy changes:
1. New Mom and Dad Benefits: Extending the parental leave from 12 to 18 months, introducing a child check in to monitor development delays and parent support programs to answer questions and improve the confidence of parents.
2. $10/day for child care services: Setting a maximum rate for child care and ensuring proper funding for caregivers and caregiver training will stimulate development and reduce educational costs in the future.
3. Flex time: Change workplace standards to allow parents to combine work and family successfully and to ensure parents are not financially burdened by working less.
Kershaw discusses the impact of the New Deal for Families in terms of four types of Albertan families. These family types, which include either one or two average earners with an infant, a 2-year old or 4-year old, are meant to represent the variety of family situations and how the New Deal for Families would support them. He shows that this plan would provide families with more time, income and access to affordable, quality programs that improve their overall well-being.
The discussion about program costs proposed in the plan includes an initial cost of $22 billion annually, which is expected to decrease overtime as taxes are generated through the programs. Ultimately, Kershaw states the New Deal will have no net cost to society in the first full year of implementation (Kershaw, 19, 2011). By bolding this statement, Kershaw is hoping to catch the attention of readers at the end of the article and target those readers who are concerned about the affordability of this plan.
The report also looks at the mid-term and long-term benefits of this plan. Mid-term benefits include reduced educational costs, reduced crime among youth and young adults, and additional tax revenue for government because the plan would help to retain employees in the labour market. Looking at long-term benefits, Kershaw believes these policy changes could produce a healthier generation of young people, while also promoting gender equality, reducing carbon emissions and improving the quality of our future labour supply.
He concludes his report with a plea for citizen involvement. The majority of Albertans agree that housing takes up a larger percent of personal income today than in previous generations; that young families are squeezed for time; and that incomes have stalled, despite dual earning families (Kershaw, 1, 2011). While it may appear to be difficult to increase tax revenue to deliver this program, the author reminds readers that Canada invests less in preschool children than other countries. Kershaw believes that as Canadians learn the facts about the current policies and past policy failures in this area, the public will want to change and persuade the government to adapt the New Deal and reap its benefits.
Through use of statistics and comparisons between provinces or countries, such as parent employment rates, income, hours of work and carbon emissions, Kershaw presents a detailed report that is visually interesting and easy to read. Also, personal comparisons, such as the cost of Tim Hortons coffee; emotional connections, such as the emotions involved in residential schools; and trendy topics, such as environmental debt, are effective persuasion tools. However, in this report these aspects are unrelated to the main topic and should not have been included.
Overall, this 22-page document could be reduced to 10 or 12-pages (or less to fit in a newspaper article). It should be reduced because the goal of this report is to motivate the public to support this plan, which would be better achieved through a more concise report. Also, the credibility of the report could have been stronger if it contained additional in-text citations and a bibliography.
Reviewed by Vanessa Zembal