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Parental leave: For every child

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Canada's parental leave system is constructed primarily as an employment benefit for some parents. Where does that leave children?
Publication Date: 
1 Feb 2024



Every child should have protected time with parents who have enough income to provide their children with the best start in life. We can deliver on this goal by ensuring full and fair access to Canada’s parental leave system – for every child.

Early moments matter and depend on inclusive and adequate “family-friendly” policy support, including income benefits, childcare and parental leave. But close to one in three infants is deprived of protected and paid time with their parent or primary caregiver at a critical time of life. About one in three new mothers is ineligible for parental leave benefits.

Parental leave is a regressive policy that amplifies inequalities. Benefits are more likely to go to higher earners. They are less likely to go to younger, Indigenous or racialized parents and children. Canada lags well behind international standards when it comes to parental leave. Twenty-nine high income countries invest more to provide more inclusive, better-paid parental leave.

The cost of caring for a newborn is high, at a time when parents tend to have lower incomes and less job security. Infants are most vulnerable to poverty and deprivation during the most critical early months of life.