Family policies in Quebec and the rest of Canada: implications for fertility, child care, women’s paid work and child development indicators

Roderic Beaujot, University of Western Ontario
Zenaida R. Ravanera, University of Western Ontario
Jane-Ching (Jiangqin) J. Du, University of Western Ontario

Given its unique demographic situation, and its desire to be in control of its own destiny, Quebec has evolved family policies that differ considerably from the rest of Canada. The Civil Law tradition in Quebec, in contrast to Common Law in the rest of the country, has meant that there was already a tradition of alternative forms of marriage in Quebec. The extent of cohabitation, along with the greater policy attention to family questions, has brought a more Nordic model in Quebec, in contrast to a more Liberal model in the rest of the country. Quebec differs considerably in terms of child care (since 1997) and parental leave (since 2006). Survey data indicate that attitudes to alternative forms of child care have come to differ considerably between Quebec and the rest of Canada. The Nordic model has helped Quebec to avoid particularly low fertility. The child care policy was designed to both improve child welfare and to enhance women’s opportunities in employment. Comparisons to other provinces indicate that women’s paid work has benefitted, but not child development indicators. It may be that universal programs do not permit as much focus on disadvantaged children, where early intervention programs have a larger impact. The different legal traditions and historical context of Quebec compared to the rest of Canada have brought differential understandings regarding cohabitation, seen as a common law union in the rest of Canada, but as a union libre or union de fait in Quebec. Common law is largely treated as equivalent to marriage, while union de fait is more of an alternative to marriage. After comparing family policy developments in Quebec to those of the rest of Canada, this paper considers implications in terms of fertility, child care, women’s paid work, and child development indicators.

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Presented in Session 82: Ideals, values, and beliefs on family formation