Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)

First years ‘experiences do matter in a very significant way in a person’s life, especially the ones linked to education and care.

Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) refers to the care provision and education of very young children (below primary school age) outside of their family and home setting. The use of external childcare services is based on the combination of two factors, parental choice and the availability of such services.

We can differentiate between two stages, firstly very young children between 0-3 years old, and in the second group we can categorize as children between 3 and the compulsory schools age in their given country of residence. It is generally perceived that the care services offered to the first age group is mostly a service to working parents, and that the second stage focuses more on the educational needs of the child. However, since the 1990s we see a shift towards a general approach to education and care to children from 0 to the compulsory school age.

There are still great differences between the Member States of the European Union in terms of ECEC, and these are related to historical, cultural and economic factors. There exist diverging views as to what is best for children and what serves the interests of (working) families, therefore we look at the commonalities rather than the differences.

Childcare provision is central to many policies – child welfare, education, social and even employment policies – and includes a wide typology of services including: early childhood care and education, emergency childcare, drop in part-time babysitting services, care services for sick children, multi-purpose childcare facilities, out of hour’s childcare, out of school care, etc.

This is not only essential for the healthy development of the child, but also to allow parents, especially women, to sustain or find employment. It is too a social inclusion measure that reduces the risk of poverty and social exclusion.

These services are complementary to the Work-Life Balance Directive and other instruments included in the Work-Life Balance package, to fulfil the promises of the package itself.

There are currently discussions about a European Child Guarantee (modelled on the Youth Guarantee). We would support the call for a European childcare guarantee to ensure all children have access to a variety of available, affordable and high-quality childcare services in their communities.

These services reflect the needs and challenges of families of today and call for a mix of European actions (policy, legislation, funding, etc.) to drive real change. These actions are addressed to EU-level policy-makers in the European Commission, European Parliament and Council of the EU, from whom we expect joint leadership to ensure tangible results for Europe’s citizens in the next years. It is on this basis that we will measure and monitor the results of European Union actions.

RESOURCES

Assessments and Papers

A New Deal for Families of Today – COFACE highlights priorities for 2020-2024 (November 2019)

Paper on Work-Life Balance Part 2: An ambitious new EU deal for childcare (17 December 2018)

Reports

Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care Education and Training – Eurydice Report, European Commission (2019)

EIGE’s Gender Equality Index (2019): The Gender Equality Index (GEI) is a tool to measure the progress of Gender Equality in the EU, developed by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). Work-Life Balance was chosen as 2019 thematic focus of the GEI.


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