‘Deep-rooted’ crisis in care systems in Canada need major paradigm shift: Oxfam report
Decades of underfunded care services, inadequate compensation for care workers, and an unequal distribution of care responsibilities have left communities across the country with little to lean on when it comes to care, according to a new report released today by Oxfam Canada.
The report, How Much Do We Care? An Assessment of the Canadian Paid and Unpaid Care Policy Landscape, is a comprehensive assessment of the current state of care-related policies in Canada, highlighting the urgent need for a paradigm shift in how care work is valued and care systems are strengthened to ensure quality care for those who need it.
Using Oxfam’s Care Policy Scorecard Tool, the report was prepared by Vivic Research and examines 21 indicators across eight policy areas to evaluate the federal government’s care policies. The assessment not only considers health care and child care policy, but other areas such as employment protections, immigration policy, and infrastructure investments, as they influence who provides care, how it is delivered, and who has access to care services.
“The report’s findings underscore the need for a holistic approach to provide an enabling environment for a wide spectrum of care services, ensuring that care work and workers are valued, and care responsibilities are more equally shared within households and between families and the state,” Amar Nijhawan, Oxfam Canada’s Women’s Rights and Policy Specialist, said.
While the report acknowledges recent federal investments in child care, public transportation, and long-term care as steps in the right direction, it also identifies significant gaps in federal care policies, which include:
- The failure to guarantee and provide access to clean drinking water on-reserve increases care work for women in many First Nations communities.
- The absence of federal initiatives to shift social norms around paid and unpaid care work.
- Migrant workers in care sectors facing poor working conditions and lacking labour rights protections.
- Equitable access to care for marginalized groups requires far more progress, as systemic discrimination remains embedded in Canada’s policy landscape and care delivery systems.
To address these issues, the report lays out a series of recommendations aimed at building care-enabling systems that promote equitable access to care, reduce and redistribute women’s care responsibilities, and ensure care workers receive fair compensation and dignified working conditions. Some of the recommendations include: increasing federal funding for non-profit and publicly managed early learning and child care, establishing national standards for long-term care, expanding Canadian Medicare to cover essential services, and developing a national strategy to recruit and retain care workers.
While many care systems are delivered at the provincial or municipal levels, this report underscores the need for federal action to set the foundation for comprehensive and equitable care policies across the country. The report also advocates for the application of the Care Policy Scorecard Tool at the provincial and municipal levels to gain a more complete understanding of care policy in Canada.
“This report is a wake-up call for Canada. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the crisis in care that has long plagued our nation. We must seize this unique opportunity to reimagine care systems, value care work, and ensure quality care for all those who need it. Federal leadership is critical in driving the necessary changes and establishing care policies that are equitable, just, and responsive to the diverse needs of our communities,” Nijhawan said.
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Notes to the editor:
- Download the full report, How Much Do We Care? An Assessment of the Canadian Paid and Unpaid Care Policy Landscape
- The methodology for the research was based on the Care Policy Scorecard created in 2021 by Oxfam International. This is the first time the methodology has been applied in a Canadian jurisdiction.
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