European Week of Regions and Cities
7-10 OCTOBER 2019 Brussels

Affordable and high quality childcare in the EU: adapting to local needs

October 9, 2018 from 09:30 to 11:00

The importance of early childhood education and care for children (ECEC) from zero to mandatory school age, highlighted in the Barcelona Objectives in 2002 / Education Target of 2009, remains crucial to increase female labour market participation, to allow for better work-life balance of working parents, to ensure a stronger start in life for all children through high quality ECEC, as well as to tackle hurdles for children from disadvantaged backgrounds from an early age onwards. It is a crucial element in the European Pillar of Social Rights and monitored in the European semester. European co-funding is available for projects investing in and promoting high quality and affordable childcare. Considerable progress towards the Barcelona and Education Targets has been reached. This calls for a reflection on the next steps including the possible revision of the targets. However, there are still important differences across countries and regions, with some of them lagging behind considerably. The reasons for which certain Member States have not reached the targets vary considerably from country to country. In particular, the achievement of the targets can be regionally dispersed and linked to differences between rural and urban areas. These regional differences highlight the importance of addressing local needs, both in terms of quantity and quality of childcare services adapted to these needs. The problems are indeed specific to each region or area, and call for local solutions. For instance, certain rural areas in Europe are confronted with important distances of child care facilities. Furthermore, certain urban areas have problems in adapting childcare to the needs of specific groups in societies. The workshop is divided into two blocks. A first block with deal with the presentation on the Commission actions with regard to childcare, which will be followed by a discussion on the possible next steps including a possible revision of the targets. The second block will deal with the question on how to cater for different issues and needs adapted to local needs, via good practices to invest in childcare in rural and urban areas and innovative approaches to address specific local needs. The aim of the workshop is to discuss further actions to take to strengthening of childcare in regions and countries and to exchange on means/approaches at local level.

9WS166
Workshops
Greet Vermeylen
Katalin Brenner, Raquel Cortes-Herrera, Emilio Di Meglio, Bianca Faragau, Geraldine Libreau, Paola Panzeri, Janneke Plantenga, Sarah Schinazi, ROSETTA GAGLIARDO
Education, culture and youth
European Commission - DG JUST
english (en), fran├žais (fr)
Building SQUARE - Brussels Convention Centre, Room The Arc
28/09/2018

Session summary

This workshop focused on affordable and high quality early childhood education and care and the need to adapt this to local needs, from various entry points, presented by European Commission services as well as representatives of local initiatives. Indeed, early childcare education and care responds to various needs and concerns different policy fields, i.e. the development of all children, integration and social inclusion of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, female labour market participation and work-life balance for parents.
The 2002 Barcelona targets aimed at increasing female labour market participation are still of crucial relevance: while they are on average almost reached in the EU, huge differences between Member States remain. While some countries have made a considerable effort to increase availability of childcare, some are still lagging seriously behind. Therefore, in the European Semester, shortages in Member States are highlighted and co-funding through the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund or the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development is available.

Availability and affordability of high quality childcare is the best tool to break the cycle of disadvantage and hence a powerful tool for social inclusion. The Commission has proposed to raise the funds reserved for social inclusion within the European Social Fund from 20 % to 25 % for the period from 2021-2028.

In order to ensure high quality early childhood education and care systems, a quality framework was developed as a guidance tool for member states focusing on an available, affordable and inclusive access, a professional workforce, curriculum and evaluation and adequate funding. Through the Erasmus+ programme, educational staff can benefit from a study visit in another Member State.

It is crucial to adapt to local needs, such as in rural areas, which make up 44 % of all EU territories. Childcare is promoted through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EARDF), to support social inclusion in these areas, to develop basic services and to support local initiatives, including through innovative and digital solutions.

In Nantes (France), a “Quality Charter” was developed concerning childcare for children up to the age of three, with the involvement of parents and staff from nurseries and other childcare services. It is based on values such as transparency, tolerance, equality, confidentiality as well as continuous improvement.

In Lombardy (Italy), the “nidi gratis” project, co-financed by the European Social Fund, offers deprived families free access to childcare for children up to the age of three in the region of Lombardy, provided both parents are employed or actively searching for a job.

Early childhood education and care responds to different needs and should be adapted to local needs. It benefits parents and families, economy and the labour market as well as the children themselves.

Take away message

Early childhood education and care benefits families including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the economy and the labour market, as well as the children themselves. It is crucial to focus on affordable and high quality childcare. Good practice examples from cities, regions, rural areas need to be addressed to specific local needs. Childcare is part of the European semester and co-funding through the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development is available.



"Early childhood education and care benefits parents and families including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the economy and the labour market as well as the children themselves."

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