Universal childcare is a label given to some government policies to fund care of children. However as this website has indicated, the expression itself is misleading. The plan has been set up in Sweden and variations of it exist in China and in other countries, including the Canadian province of Quebec.
These programs usually have in common:
-state funding for care of children if they are not with their parents
-taxpayer obligation to fund this care style
-no equivalent funding for other care styles such as care by a parent, grandparent, babysitter, nanny au au pair.
-support from operators of the childcare facilities that get this preferential funding, and in nations with trade unions, high support from the trade unions affiliated with such operations or whose members are employees there
-some support from government leaders who wish to ensure high tax revenue for the state by getting all adult men and women to do full time paid work and pay tax with brief if any breaks to have or raise children
-some support from a wing of activists for women’s rights who claim that only through paid work can women fulfill their potential, use their education, and attain financial independence and equality with men
-some support from a small group who claim that such care is the only way children can thrive, get an early education and reach their potential.
-little support from parents at home, homeschoolers, parents who use nannies or care by a relative, those who take children to paid work, , work from home, off shift each other for paid work, or have paid work hours only when the children are in school.
-little support from operators of private childcare centres who also are not funded by this plan
-little support from nannies, babysitters or au pairs whose career is care in the home
-little support from taxpayers who dislike being told how their money is assigned without feeling it is based on equality rights
This website has attempted to study these concerns noting that there are gaps in the case made to only fund the one style of care, and calling it ‘universal’. Some of the flaws of this plan are:
-the plan does not really benefit all children equally, since they exclude those not at the approved childcare centre. In that regard then they are not universal. In that regard also since they exclude those in the many other care styles, including care by parents doing paid work from home, care by parents taking turns off shifting each other, care by private dayhome operators. Therefore they are not really a plan for ‘childcare’ as a general category.
-forcing all parents to fund what only some will use, and not giving parents a choice to get equal funds for all options, could be seen as a violation of basic legal rights. (see legal principles section)
-the highly advertised support for such plans comes from only one sector, those who benefit. Those who provide care more informally, in the home or at small private daycares, grandparents and sitters do not have the powerful organization and funding of trade unions or large scale daycares. The balance is tilted and consultation from all sectors is usually lacking.
-the idea that governments in deficit need more tax revenue and immediately, is a short term solution that ignores the unique value of children in an economy. A drop in birth rate poses the most serious threat to any economy because it deprives the state from revenue long term, as fewer children become adults and contributors. A universal childcare plan does not historically improve the birth rate and tends to actually reduce it since parents are less inclined to have children if they also are not given much time to be with them.
-the argument that state -funded childcare is good for women actually insults women in the home as if they are lesser and not doing useful work already. To force women out of the home violates several principles established at the UN to value unpaid work and ignores the win-win answer of 3rd wave feminism to value paid work and unpaid work both,not just paid work.
-if financial recognition for women’s work is a goal, then logically financial recognition for the care role wherever it happens is more appropriate than funding only roles away from caregiving. To not fund the care role at home equally actually forces women into financial dependency so defeats the goal of financial autonomy. ( see tax principles section)
-the wellbeing of children is a logical goal but research does not support claims that the daycare solution is the only or even the best way to provide early learning. There is significant research finding that large group care of children actually poses some problems for optimal development and to force this care style fails to recognize parents as most knowledgeable in the best interests of the child. To allow daycare is not the same as to prefer and only fund daycare and most universal daycare plans go past allowing it to preferring it ( see historical section)
This website has many categories of the legal, historical, economics, tax, human rights and human needs principles of the movement to value care itself, in or out of daycare setting. Only such a plan to fund all children would be actually universal and actually inclusive of all styles of childcare. Only such a plan would satisfy the legal principles that have been established in many international conventions about equality, dignity, fair taxation, equal benefit under the law, and choice.
In 2021 Canada and the US have announced plans for ‘universal childcare’ despite these objections. These moves are regrettable but not unavoidable. There is hope that wisdom will prevail and governments will listen to the many voices outlining flaws of a plan that is so one sided.