Non-parental Child Care

Sex and Gender-based Analysis of this topic


Non-parental child care refers to care a child receives that is not from the mother, father, or guardian and includes the use of daycare centres, care inside or outside of the home by a relative or non-relative, nursery schools, and/or preschools [1]. Regulated child care refers to services that are regulated by provincial and territorial standards and are provided in licensed child care settings. Unregulated child care services are not licensed or monitored and caregivers in these settings are typically limited to caring for a small number of children (2-8 children) [2]. According to the 2004/05 National Longitudinal Survey on Children and Youth (NLSCY), when including kindergarten as a form of non-parental child care, 62% of preschool children were in regulated child care, 19% in unregulated care with a non-relative, and 19% were in unregulated care with a relative [3]. When excluding kindergarten as a form of childcare among preschool children, 50% were in regulated care, 25% in unregulated care with a non-relative, and 25% were in unregulated care with a relative [3].

Sex Issues

In 2001, approximately 96% of individuals who work in daycares and nursery schools were women [4]. These jobs are often undervalued and poorly compensated, because they are similar to jobs that women traditionally did for free [4]. Child care is physically demanding, with long hours, increased exposure to infectious diseases, and stress, which can negatively affect the health of child care workers [4].

Gender Issues

Traditionally, mothers have been regarded as the primary child care-givers in the home. Due to an increase in labour force participation by mothers, there has been an increased demand for non-parental childcare services [5]. High quality non-parental childcare is important and studies have shown that quality care can improve children’s social and cognitive skills [6]. However, affordable, high quality child care options in Canada are often lacking and many women choose employment that accommodates their child care responsibilities. These jobs are often part-time and poorly paid [7,8]. Even when both partners are working, working mothers are more likely to pay for non-parental childcare compared to working fathers. A recent Canadian study found that higher male income was not associated with higher expenditure on non-parental childcare even when both partners were working full time [5] .


Young children (1-5) with disabilities are less likely to be in non-parental child care (45%) compared to children without disabilities (56%), according to the 2004/05 NLSCY (Cycle 6). Children with disabilities are also more likely to be cared for in someone else’s home (45%) compared to children without disabilities (42%).

Child care varies by income level: 40% of children living in high-income families are generally cared for outside of the home by a non-relative, whereas 42% of children from low-income families are generally enrolled in daycare centres [1]. Children of single parents who work or study were most likely to be in child care (83%).


Canadian data on non-parental child care is improving, however data gaps still exist. For example, there are no nation-wide surveys collecting data about use patterns, price and expenditures, cost, and/or quality of child care [5]. The most comprehensive national survey collecting data on non-parental child care is the NLSCY. Though it is the best data available, the picture of child care it provides is incomplete, as the questions are directed only at families in which the parents are studying or employed [5].

+ Show References
Print this page
health determinants > non-parental child care