Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Early Childhood Educators 'Unappreciated and Underpaid:' Study

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Early Childhood Educators 'Unappreciated and Underpaid:' Study

Article excerpt

N.S. early childhood workers underpaid:study

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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's early child care sector is facing retention challenges caused by low pay for workers who feel "unappreciated and underpaid," and by the rollout of the province's pre-primary program, a new study says.

The study released Wednesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said universal pre-primary has had a destabilizing effect because it has made the school-based public sector more attractive to workers who get greater access to paid sick days, health, and pension benefits.

Study authors Christine Saulnier of the policy centre, and Acadia University associate professor of sociology Lesley Frank, call the province's offering of universal pre-primary to all four-year-olds by 2020 "the most important development in at least a decade."

"While improved access to care is good news for Nova Scotian families, the survey data show that both program staff and employers experienced the destablizing effect of the implementation of the pre-primary program," the study said.

"Most notable... the continuing and deepening divide between early learning and the more recognized rewarded school-based learning."

As a result, a survey conducted with the study found 82 per cent of the employers who responded indicated they had trouble recruiting and retaining qualified staff in the past year.

Among a list of 14 of the most pressing problems flagged by early childhood educators (ECEs) were working conditions, a lack of support for special needs children, appropriate staffing support, staff morale, and wages and benefits.

When it comes to benefits in particular, the study said 67 per cent of pre-primary workers have access compared to 16 per cent in the non-profit sector and 12 per cent in for-profit centres. Overall, only 28 per cent of all ECEs felt their benefits were adequate.

The study also said the survey data "indicates considerable discontentment about wages in the ECE workforce."

"One respondent wrote, 'Pay is horrible in child care in Nova Scotia. …

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