According to the latest rankings from U.S. News & World Report, Canada places fourth on the list of best countries for raising kids in 2019, behind Sweden, Denmark, Norway and just ahead of Finland.
Really it shouldn’t be surprising to find Canada at the top of the list. With an unemployment rate of 5.6%, a home buyer incentive for families, and a strong and well-funded public education system, the country seems to have rightfully earned its title as an excellent place for child-rearing.
“We are lucky: our early childhood education system is almost completely subsidized; our maternity leave is longer than in France; and we have parental benefits that allow the couple to share their weeks of parental leave during the baby’s first year. This is a positive thing for the child’s development,” says Fannie Dagenais, the director of the Observatoire des tout-petits, a Quebec-based organization that promotes the development and well-being of children.
This positive environment is largely the result of, as Dagenais points out, “the majority of companies that offer measures to reconcile family life and work.” Entrepreneurs often offer flexible working hours conducive to family life (work days often end at 5 p.m.), accept days off for “family reasons” without any supporting documents, and allow parents to work from home quite easily. In Quebec, there is a certain kind of thoughtfulness around children, which is observable in the day-to-day. The presence of crossing-guards outside schools is a good illustration of this. Extracurricular activities and sports are often scheduled on weekday afternoons so that teenagers who participate can have more time to spend with their family on weekends.
Security and quality of life
The “Best Countries” ranking examines different areas including access to education, gender equality, security, the environment, children’s rights, and even happiness. In the report, which places France in 15th place and the United States in 20th, the authors point out that the “feeling of security is an important index.” Canada once again, namely La Belle Province of Québec, stands out in this regard. According to the Institut du Québec’s website, “Montréal stands out from other North American cities. The city is in the lead in terms of wealth distribution. It has the lowest crime rate among major North American cities, and offers affordable housing. It provides a safe and pleasant environment for its inhabitants.”
Montréal, which already has a large number of public amenities for its youth residents, is committed to doing even more, committing to an additional $25 million for the cause within the course of five years. To quote Jean-Guy Côté, Associate Director of the Institut du Québec: “In Montreal, you may not have the salaries of Silicon Valley, but you do have a very good quality of life!”
A work in progress
However, behind this reputation as an “El Dorado for families,” “there is room for improvement,” says Deganais. The quality of childcare services can still be improved, and the same goes to the accessibility of affordable housing for the poorest, good nutrition, and of equal opportunities. One child in four entering kindergarten is “vulnerable in at least one area of development, which raises questions about the future of their education.” And Québeçois people are asking for more: according to a survey conducted by Léger and published by the Observatoire des tout petits last November, 62% of respondents believe “that not enough has been done in Quebec to ensure the healthy development of young children.” 73% hope that “the development of children aged 0 to 5 becomes a priority for decision-makers.”
This article was first published on our sister site Maudits Français.