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Economy

Room to Grow: The Policy That Gets Mothers Back to Work

Since Quebec established subsidized daycare, it's seen a spike in working moms.
Since Quebec established subsidized daycare, it's seen a spike in working moms.Mathieu Belanger/Reuters

To all the mothers struggling to balance work and small kids, here’s an idea: Consider Quebec. In one of the most popular stories from CityLab’s special series, Room to Grow, we look at the legacy and impact of Quebec’s subsidized childcare program, which introduced low-fee, universal child care in the province in 1996 and became a model adopted by many other cities and countries.

In the years since, one impact has stood out with particular clarity. “Since beginning the program more than two decades ago, Quebec has seen the rate of women age 26 to 44 in the workforce reach 85 percent, the highest in the world,” writes Molly McCluskey, the series editor and the author of this story. The change in employment rates was particularly dramatic among mothers of young kids. Between 1997 and 2016, the employment rate for mothers of kids age 5 or younger spiked 16 percentage points, according to a Montreal economist who’s studied the program.