10 International TARGETS and PROGRESS
10.1 European Union targets
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) moved centrally into focus with the Lisbon Agenda in 2000. In March 2000, at the European Council meeting in Lisbon the aim was set to make the European Union (EU) 'the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion' by 2010.
A centrepiece of the Lisbon Agenda was the European Employment Strategy (EES) that had among its aims to raise the overall EU employment rate to 70% and to increase the number of women in employment to more than 60% by 2010. The EES explicitly recognised the importance of the availability of suitable childcare provision as an essential step towards achieving equal opportunities in employment between women and men; and in 2002, at the Barcelona summit, the Member States adopted the following targets:
- To provide by 2010 a full-day place in formal childcare to:
- at least 90% of children aged between three and mandatory school age
- at least 33% of children under three years of age.
In the period before the 2010 target, there was a pronounced emphasis on increasing the quantity of childcare and pre-primary places to enable more parents, especially mothers, to join the labour market. In recent years and in the wake of research on the relationship between high-quality services and child outcomes, the focus has shifted towards the quality of ECEC provision.
In 2011, in a Communication on Early Childhood Education and Care, the European Commission emphasised that ECEC is the essential foundation for successful lifelong learning, social integration, personal development and later employability. It is therefore a central element of the focus on improving and developing the quality and effectiveness of education systems across the EU as to support the overarching Europe 2020 strategy to develop smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe.
The EC Communication states:
High quality early childhood education and care can make a strong contribution - through enabling and empowering all children to realise their potential - to achieving two of the Europe 2020 headline targets in particular: reducing early school leaving to below 10%, and lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion.
Acknowledging both the recognised aim to improve quality of ECEC services, and that in many countries the targets of expanding ECEC in Europe have not yet been met, the EU has launched a process of cooperation among Member States. This will address the two-fold challenge:
to provide access to child care and education for all, but also to raise the quality of their provision through well integrated services that build on a joint vision of the role of ECEC, of the most effective curricular frameworks and of the staff competences and governance arrangements necessary to deliver it. (emphasis in original)
To aid in this process, the EC Communication makes a series of recommendations for the development of national ECEC systems that build on extensive international research on ECEC and international policy learning:
- With respect to access, it points to a) the benefits of universally available, high-quality inclusive ECEC services to all children; and b) the importance of efficient and equitable funding that does not exclude low-income families from accessing ECEC, particularly for the under-threes.
- With respect to quality it points to the importance of a) integrating 'care' and 'education' and of developing curricular approaches appropriate to the early years; b) improving staff competences and the professionalisation of the early years workforce, including higher and a broader range of required levels of education, higher salaries and better working conditions; c) the benefits of a more integrated approach to ECEC governance nationally, regionally and locally, with strong collaboration between the different policy sectors, such as education, employment, health, and other social policy.
In light of these recommendations, the rest of the chapter charts to what extent the ECEC systems of the eight nations represented in this review meet the EU targets and where they stand with respect to issues pertaining to:
a. participation in formal ECEC
b. funding; particularly costs to parents
a. level of integration of care and education
b. curricular development
c. staff qualifications
3. maternal labour market participation rates
10.2 Access to ECEC
10.2.1 Participation in formal childcare
Table 10.1: Children's participation in formal childcare by age and usual number of hours per week
|Member State|| 0-2 years |
(up to 3 years)
| 3 years - mandatory |
|1-29 hours||30 hours or more||Total||1-29 hours||30 hours or more||Total||Admission age to school|
Source: Eurostat. EU-SILC data for 2010. 2009 for Denmark.
The EU-SILC data above indicates that all countries have overall participation rates (any number of hours per week) over 33% for children under the age of three and thus meet the Barcelona targets for this age group. However, according to this data only the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Slovenia meet the 90% target for the three to school age group.
Discrepancy between EU-SILC data and national data
National statistical office estimates can be somewhat higher than EU-SILC estimates. EU-SILC is a European-wide household survey, which asks parents directly about how their children use various childcare arrangements. EU-SILC estimates are likely to be lower than national estimates because the latter normally report the extent of enrolment (or even places available) rather than patterns of use in a particular week.
There also tend to be national differences in the definition of various childcare arrangements, a key reason for using harmonised data like EU-SILC. For example, in EU-SILC data 'formal' arrangements do not include professional childminders, whereas in France and the UK, childminders are considered to be 'formal' care and are therefore included in national estimates.
National data are also likely to over-estimate enrolment given that some children may use more than one form of childcare, even within a single day, and therefore may be 'double-counted.' EU-SILC avoids this issue by asking how many hours a child spends in various forms of arrangements.
Additionally, the percentages in the birth to two year age group might seem lower than expected in countries where most parents take parental leave for the first year. Such countries often do not report childcare use for children below the age of one year in their national statistics.
While the original wording of the Barcelona targets did not specify what type of formal childcare and for what length of time, the Communication from the European Commission on Early Childhood Education and Care from 2011 specifies that the targets are for full-time provision.
In this light, only in Denmark, Sweden, Slovenia and Norway do 33% or more of all children age three or younger attend ECEC services full-time (30 hours or more). Attendance is predominantly part-time for this age group in the Netherlands and the UK. In France more children under three attend full-time than part-time, but it does not meet the target of 33% full-time.
For the three to school age group, based on EU-SILC data, none of the countries meet the target with full-time participation. Denmark and Slovenia come closest, with 72% and 77% respectively.
Childcare costs can be a barrier for parents to use ECEC services. Costs are thus an important aspect of access to ECEC. In light of this the European Network on Childcare in 1996 made the recommendation to the European Union that the charges to parents for ECEC services should not exceed 15% of net monthly household income.
Table 10.2: Net childcare costs (after benefits) as a % of household income for a dual earner family
|Member State||Net childcare costs|
Source: OECD, Doing Better for Families, OECD, Paris, 2011.
Countries vary widely in the extent to which parents bear the costs of childcare services. According to OECD estimates (see table 10.2), net childcare costs are overwhelmingly highest in the UK (27%) compared to the other countries. Slovenia is next highest at 14%. Most of the countries have net costs of between 9-11% while Sweden has net costs of 5%.
In countries like Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Slovenia where ECEC is largely public, with high investment by the state, parental contributions to fees are set by the government.
In the Netherlands, the government sets a maximum subsidy (per childcare hour) for families, but this does not always cover the full fee.
In France, parents benefit from a free public system of early education for three to five year olds as well as a range of childcare subsidies through various family allowances.
In England and Scotland, public expenditure on ECEC is high, but parental contributions are also very high. Many parents of three to four year olds benefit from some free part-time education for their children, but must pay the bulk of other childcare costs.
10.3 Quality in ECEC provision
10.3.1 Integration of 'care' and 'education'
Many European countries have been moving toward administrative integration of ECEC services, which had previously been served by a combination of ministries such as those with responsibilities for education, for health and for employment. At the national level, most countries in this review no longer split responsibility for ECEC services across ministries. The exceptions are France and the Netherlands.
|Denmark||No||Ministry of Social Affairs & Integration|
|France||Yes||Ministry of Education; Ministry of Social Affairs, Employment & Solidarity and Ministry of Health, Family & Disabled Persons|
|Netherlands||Yes||Ministry of Education; Ministry of Social Affairs & Employment|
|Slovenia||No||Ministry of Education & Sport|
|Sweden||No||Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport|
|Scotland||No||Minister for Children & Young People and Minister for Learning, Science & Scotland's Languages (but both under Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning)|
|England||No||Department for Education|
|Norway||No||Ministry of Education & Research|
The countries studied are evenly split between those which offer an integrated system of ECEC services, where both preschool age and younger children are included, and those which offer separate systems depending on age group.
In Denmark, Slovenia, Sweden and Norway, there is an integrated system of ECEC services which cater for children from around one year to school age.
In France, the Netherlands, Scotland and England, ECEC services are different for preschool age children and younger children. Preschool age children are offered education-based formal services, often publicly provided or funded, while younger children are offered a wider variety of services, some of which may be centre-based and some of which may be residence-based (e.g. childminding). Public funding and support is often lower for this age group.
|Denmark||Yes||Integrated system from age 26 weeks-7|
|France||No||Split system of early education for age 3-6; care services for younger children|
|Netherlands||No||Split system of early education for age 4-5; care services for younger children|
|Slovenia||Yes||Integrated system from age 1-6|
|Sweden||Yes||Integrated system from age 1-6|
|Scotland||No||Split system of early education for age 3 & 4; care services for younger children|
|England||No||Split system of early education for age 3 & 4 (some for age 2); care services for younger children|
|Norway||Yes||Integrated system from age 1-6|
10.3.2 Curricular development
There is a mixed picture of curricular development across the countries in the review. Those countries which offer an integrated system of ECEC services tend to have a national curriculum, whereas those which offer separate systems would not have a national curriculum for care services.
|Denmark||All facilities must offer an educational curriculum, but standards are not set nationally|
|France||National curriculum for early education; None for care services (crèches must set educational goals for children)|
|Netherlands||No prescribed curriculum for care services, but must have a 'pedagogical plan'. Early 'compensatory' education only provided for children with particular needs.|
|Slovenia||National curriculum for all preschools, for all age groups|
|Sweden||National curriculum for all age groups|
|Scotland||Curriculum for Excellence (3-18 years); no curriculum for younger children|
|England||Early Years Foundation Stage, for children from birth to 5 years|
|Norway||Framework Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergartens for all age groups|
10.3.3 Staff qualifications
The ECEC workforce is fairly similar across countries, and is generally composed of educators or teachers, usually qualified to tertiary level; their assistants, who may or may not have formal qualification requirements; other workers such as children's nurses and carers; and childminders. All the countries required some form of tertiary education or training for ECEC teachers and educators. Childcare workers are often trained to upper secondary vocational level. Childminders are not usually required to have formal qualifications but are either offered or required to have some prior training.
|Denmark||At least 3.5 years tertiary training required for pedagogues/educators; no tertiary requirement for other staff|
|France||Tertiary degree (Masters) required for all teachers, including pre-primary; 3-year tertiary diploma required for crèche educators|
|Netherlands||Pre-primary teachers have a tertiary diploma|
|Slovenia||At least 3 years required for preschool teachers; no tertiary requirement for other staff|
|Sweden||3-year tertiary degree required for preschool teachers; no tertiary requirement for other staff|
|Scotland||Tertiary degree required for all teachers and for managers of centre-based ECEC services ; no tertiary requirement for other staff|
|England||Tertiary degree required for school teachers, Early Years Professionals and for managers of centre-based ECEC services; no tertiary requirement for other staff|
|Norway||At least 3 years required for kindergarten teachers; no tertiary requirement for other staff|
10.4 Parental employment rates
A centrepiece of the Lisbon Agenda was the European Employment Strategy (EES) that had among its aims to raise the overall EU employment rate to 70% and to increase the number of women in employment to more than 60%, by 2010. The table below shows that 'even' parents are reaching these targets, with the exception of UK mothers of children under six.
Table 10.7: Employment rates for parents by sex and age of youngest child
|Member state||Employment rates|
|Child under 6||Child 6-11|
Source: Eurostat 2011.
Maternal employment is lowest in the UK (59.4% for those with children under six) and highest in Slovenia (81.9% for those with children under six). Paternal employment rates are high overall, in the high 80s to low-mid 90s range.
In all the countries, maternal employment rates are lower than paternal employment rates, regardless of the age of the youngest child. In all countries, the difference between maternal and paternal employment is higher among those with children under six years than those with children between six to eleven years.
However, in some countries the gap is much wider than in others. In the UK there is a difference of almost 29 percentage points between mothers and fathers (with a child under six) employed. This gap is lower, but still higher than in other countries, for parents of children age six to eleven, at 17.6 percentage points. The gap between employment rates for mothers and fathers is also fairly high in France (24% for those with a child under six years). The gap between employment rates for mothers and fathers is lowest in Slovenia.
In terms of part-time employment, all countries similarly have higher proportions of part-time work among mothers than among fathers, regardless of the age of the youngest child. The gap between mothers and fathers is highest in the Netherlands, followed by the UK.
Part-time work is particularly high in the Netherlands, for both mothers and fathers. Roughly 87-89% of Dutch mothers, depending on the age of the child, work part-time. By contrast, about 11-14% of Dutch fathers work part-time.
Part-time work is also common in the UK, with about 58% of British mothers working part-time.
Table 10.8: Part-time employment for parents by sex and age of youngest child
|Member state||Part-time employment|
|Child under 6||Child 6-11|
Source: Eurostat 2011.
This thematic chapter set out to ask whether the eight countries considered in this review are meeting EU Barcelona ECEC recommendations with regard to access and quality; and European Employment Strategy recommendations with respect to female labour market participation rates.
- Based on overall participation rates in formal care (any number of hours per week), all our countries meet the 33% target for the birth to three years age group, but only in Denmark, Sweden, Slovenia and Norway do 33% or more of under-threes attend ECEC services full-time. According to EU-SILC data only the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Slovenia meet the 90% target for the three to school age group with respect to overall participation rates, but none of the countries in this review meet the targets for full-time participation.
- Countries vary widely in the extent to which parents bear the costs of childcare services, with England and Scotland coming out as the most expensive to parents.
- At the national level, most countries no longer split responsibility for ECEC across ministries.
- The countries studied are evenly split between those which offer an integrated system of ECEC services, where both preschool aged and younger children are included, and those which offer separate systems depending on age group.
- The professionalisation of the early years workforce is more advanced in countries with integrated ECEC services.
- All countries in the review meet the European Employment Strategy recommendations for parents with children aged 6-11, and almost all for parents with children aged 0-6 (the exception being the UK).
- In countries with split ECEC systems, mothers have lower employment rates, in Scotland and England considerably so, or are less likely to be in full-time employment.
Email: Gita Anand