On 3rd June 2013, the European Commission released a progress report on the Barcelona objectives, agreed in 2002, to improve the provision of childcare facilities.
Key findings for 2010 show that only eight Member States have met the targets set by the Barcelona European Council, which state that childcare should be provided for 90% of children between three years old and the mandatory school age, and for 33% of children under three. The report seeks to re-emphasise the importance of increasing accessibility to childcare, as a means of early investment in human capital but also in order to promote women’s employment.
With a focus on childcare, the Commission has prioritised the need to give every child a better start in life. Pre-school education and care lays the foundations for success in education, social integration, personal development and employability; thereby helping to prevent a cycle of inequality and disadvantage. The report highlights the wide range of initiatives that have already been implemented by Member States, such as the French system of giving parents an allowance to hire professional childminders or the childcare voucher system in Luxembourg. However, it concludes that overall provision in 2010 was still not in line with the Barcelona objectives of 2002 and that the situation in some countries has even deteriorated.
The high cost of childcare remains an issue and there is a need to ensure its financial accessibility to all social groups. The report reveals that 53% of mothers, who gave inadequate childcare as a reason for not working or working part-time, considered price to be an obstacle. The report also addresses the issue of a perceived lack of quality in childcare, with reference to the difficulties in measuring quality and the tendency to have unqualified people working in the sector.
In publishing the report, the Commission calls for a more systemic and integrated approach to early childhood education and care services, in particular for very young children below 3, between national and local authorities. The role of the Commission is clearly outlined in its renewed commitment to support Member States by co-financing projects, developing other policies for better work-life balance and making country-specific recommendations.