Publication - Research and analysis

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE PROVISION: INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF POLICY, DELIVERY AND FUNDING

Published: 29 Jun 2013
Part of:
Health and social care
ISBN:
9781782564164

This report provides an overview of the current situation regarding early childhood education and care provision in Scotland, England, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Slovenia, France and the Netherlands.

164 page PDF

1.6 MB

164 page PDF

1.6 MB

Contents
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE PROVISION: INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF POLICY, DELIVERY AND FUNDING
4 Country Report: Sweden

164 page PDF

1.6 MB

4 Country Report: Sweden

4.1 Key Findings

  • Sweden has a fully integrated system of ECEC with a legal entitlement for all children age one to school-entry to an ECEC place (with a separate preschool class for six year olds). Leave and ECEC policies are coordinated, leaving no 'care gap' between the end of paid parental leave and the entitlement to an ECEC place.
  • Employment rates for mothers and women without children are very similar: 76.3% of women age 20-49 without children were employed in 2011, compared to 74.1% of mothers of children under six years.
  • 32.1% of GDP is spent on social protection in Sweden.[137] 3.4% is spent on family benefits alone. 1.1% of GDP is spent on ECEC.[138]
  • A 'Gender Equality Bonus' offers further economic incentive for fathers to take a greater share of parental leave. If parents share all available leave equally, the bonus is worth up to SEK 13,500 (£1,256).
  • The main type of ECEC is the preschool (förskola), an 'age integrated' centre offering all-year and full-day provision for all children age one to six. Over 85% of all children in formal ECEC attend a preschool.
  • ECEC provision is predominantly public in Sweden, over 80% of formal ECEC places are provided by municipalities.
  • Swedish ECEC is predominantly publicly funded; in 2011 7% of the costs of a preschool place and 17% of the costs of an after school care place were financed through parent fees; the rest was paid by the municipalities.
  • Parent fees for preschools and after school care depend on income and the number of children in ECEC in the household. In addition, the maximum amount any parents pay is capped at a 'maximum fee' (called maxtaxa), which is set annually and on a national level.
  • For children age one to three average weekly attendance in formal ECEC is 33 hours.
  • The average child:staff ratio in 2011 was 5.3 children per worker and the average group size was 16.8 children.
  • 51.7% of workers in the ECEC sector have a university degree, a proportion that has remained relatively stable over the last decade.

4.2 Concepts and objectives guiding ECEC development

  • Sweden has a fully integrated system of ECEC with a legal entitlement for all children age one to school-entry to an ECEC place (with a separate preschool class for six year olds). Leave and ECEC policies are coordinated, leaving no 'care gap' between the end of paid parental leave and the entitlement to an ECEC place.

In international comparisons Sweden is considered to have one of the most generous ECEC systems in the world providing high-quality early years services to all children at low cost to parents. This system has a long history.

The idea of a universal public system that combines childcare and early learning was formulated in the 1930s by the policy expert Alva Myrdal. But it was not until after WWII that formal ECEC provision began to increase. During the 1960s, labour shortage, women's increased entry into the labour market, and demands for more gender equality brought ECEC onto the political agenda. In the 1970s the Swedish government began to actively promote women's employment and a dual earner family model; and the number of places in day care centres (today called preschools) increased. Between 1975 and 1990 attendance rates of children age one to six increased from 17% to 52%,[139] but demand for places rose even faster.

Two main drivers were behind the historic development and expansion of ECEC in Sweden: the dual aim to support all children's early development and learning, and to facilitate parents' labour market participation. This was grounded in a shared value base in Sweden emphasising children's rights, gender equality and social inclusion on the one hand and economic considerations on the other.[140] The prosperity of the Swedish economy and the expansion and sustainability of the welfare state were - and still are today - understood to be premised on high employment levels among men and women alike.

In 1995 an entitlement to ECEC services was introduced for children (from age one) who have parents in employment or education, or who have special needs. The entitlement to attend ECEC was extended to all children in 2000.[141]

  • Today, almost all three to five year olds (94%), 88% of two year olds, and 48% of one year olds participate in formal ECEC.[142]

4.3 Socio-economic context

Sweden is a democratic constitutional monarchy and member of the EU since 1995. It has a population of a bit over nine million, and due to the country's large size, population density is well below the European average.

  • Living standards in Sweden are high in European comparison; Sweden has a GDP per capita of 126% of the EU-27 average.[143]

Fertility rates in Sweden are above European average, but below replacement level (1.98).[144] Single parenthood is common in Sweden, 19% of children grow up in single parent households,[145] but teenage pregnancies are rare with 5.92 births per 1000 women age 15-19.[146] The mean age of mothers at first birth is 28.4.[147] Children under 15 years make up 16.6% of the Swedish population.[148]

Box 4.1: Summary of key population statistics[149]

Total fertility rate: 1.98
Mean age of mothers at first birth: 28.4
Teenage pregnancies (no. of births per 1000 women age 15-19): 5.92
Child population: 16.6%
Children in lone parent households: 19%

4.4 Employment patterns

The overall employment rate for 2011 was 80% of those age 20-64; the unemployment rate was 7.5% for those age 15-74. The employment rate for men age 20-64 was 82.8% and for women 77.2%.[150]

9.8% of employed men work part-time and 18.4% of employed women work part-time.[151]

  • Employment rates for mothers and women without children are very similar: 76.3% of women age 20-49 without children were employed in 2011, compared to 74.1% of mothers of children under six years. The difference is much greater for men: 78.2% of men without children were employed, compared to 93.4% of fathers with a child below the age of six.[152]

About 40-44% of mothers of children age eleven and under work part-time, compared to about 4-8% of similar fathers.[153]

Box 4.2: Summary of employment statistics[154]

Total employment rate: 80%
Total unemployment rate: 7.5%
Women's employment rate: 77.2%
Men's employment rate: 82.8%
Women's part-time employment: 18.4%
Men's part-time employment: 9.8%
Mothers' employment rate: 74.1%
Fathers' employment rate: 93.4%

4.5 Welfare system and social support for families with small children

Sweden is number one in Europe for competitiveness and is often likened to the 'bumble bee that can fly': strong economic performance and competitiveness are combined in Sweden with high taxes (almost 43% of an average workers income), high welfare state spending (32.1% of GDP), and a large public sector. Total public expenditure accounted for 53.1% of GDP in 2010.[155]

  • 32.1% of GDP is spent on social protection in Sweden.[156] 3.4% is spent on family benefits alone. 1.1% of GDP is spent on ECEC.[157]

The Swedish welfare state, supported by robust corporate arrangements between employer organisations and trade unions, is characterised by the principles of equality and universalism and has relatively strong redistributive effects. It is strongly service oriented with public spending for education, family and children above the EU average. High levels of employment among both men and women support the welfare system.

The reconciliation of work and family is a key element of this high-tax/high-productivity balance as reflected in extensive high-quality ECEC provision and generous parental leave policy.

The general social security system in Sweden comprises the following branches:[158]

  • health insurance;
  • benefits in respect of accidents at work and occupational diseases;
  • invalidity benefits;
  • old-age and survivors' pensions;
  • unemployment insurance;
  • family benefits and parental insurance.

The general social insurance regime is compulsory, except for the earnings-related part of unemployment insurance. The system is financed from taxation and earnings-related contributions. Employers' contributions amounting to 31.42% of the wage bill cover most of the cost.

In addition, insured persons' contributions have recently been introduced to finance part of the old-age pension scheme. Contributions cover three quarters of all insurance expenditure. The rest is financed by yield from funds and by taxes via the state budget.

Families in Sweden benefit from a wide variety of support:

  • Child allowance: a universal benefit of SEK 1,050 (£98) per month for all children up to the age of 16 years; additional supplements are granted for low income families and for children between the ages of 16 and 20 who are in full-time education;
  • Large family supplement: an additional benefit for families with at least two children; the amount paid increases with each subsequent child;
  • Parent's cash benefit: may be paid when a child is born or adopted, to enable the parent to stay at home with the child;
  • Temporary parent's cash benefit: can be paid for short periods of leave to look after a sick child;
  • Housing allowance: a means-tested benefit for families with dependent children.

In addition, Swedish legislation gives the municipalities the right to introduce, finance and administer municipal child care allowances. This allowance can be granted for children over the age of one but younger than three. To be entitled, parents must have taken at least 250 days of parent's cash benefit. The allowance can be combined with paid employment but not with other social security benefits relating to unemployment, sickness, parenthood or old-age.

The maximum amount of child care allowance is SEK 3,000 (£280) per child and per month. The municipalities have been given the right to reduce the allowance if the child attends a publicly funded preschool establishment. The amount is reduced according the amount of time the child spends in preschool.

Box 4.3: Summary of public expenditure[159]

Total public expenditure: 53.1% of GDP
On social protection: 32.1% of GDP
On family benefits: 3.4% of GDP
On early education and care: 1.1%

4.6 Leave policies for families with small children[160]

4.6.1 Structure

Parental leave in Sweden is generous in terms of entitlement, payment and flexibility. Two parents are eligible for 480 days leave. 60 days are reserved for each parent; the remaining 360 days are designed to be split fifty-fifty, but can be transferred between parents.

Parents do not need to be living together to share leave. There is no gap between the end of the leave period and entitlement to ECEC.

Parental leave is the main system of leave, but there are further supplementary leaves available. Women must take two weeks leave either before or after birth, but this is the extent of maternity provision. There are also possibilities of paid leave during pregnancy.

Fathers have a statutory entitlement to two weeks paternity leave, though it is called 'temporary leave in connection with a child's birth or adoption,' so as to reflect that is a gender-neutral entitlement.

Other leaves include a municipal child-raising allowance, adoption leave, leave to care for sick and disabled children and the right to reduce working time by up to 25%.

4.6.2 Payment and funding

In simplified terms, leave is generally compensated at 80% of earnings up to an earnings ceiling of SEK 330,000 (£30,695) for maternity and temporary leave and SEK 440,000 (£40,927) for parental leave. In the case that parents were not previously employed, a lower flat-rate payment of SEK 180 (£17) a day is paid.

  • A 'Gender Equality Bonus' offers further economic incentive for fathers to take a greater share of parental leave. If parents share all available leave equally, the bonus is worth up to SEK 13,500 (£1,256).

4.6.3 Role of employers

All employees are eligible for leave. Leave payments are often supplemented by collective agreements, particularly in the public sector, but also in the private sector. The Swedish Social Insurance Agency, funded by employers' contributions, makes payments and the government meets any shortfall.

4.6.4 Uptake of parental leave

There is evidence that Swedish women delay having children until they are in gainful employment in order to qualify for the parental leave entitlements: the average age of first time mothers is relatively high (28.4), and most parents use their paid parental leave.

Although parents can decide how they split the paid parental leave between mother and father (with exception of 60 days each that are earmarked), the majority of parental leave is taken by mothers, with fathers taking 23% of all parental leave days used in 2010. Fathers' take up rates of parental leave have increased over the last decade from around 10% in the early 1990s.[161]

Almost all families use parental leave, mostly during the first two years of the child's life, though it can be used until the child's eighth birthday. Maternity leave is compulsory and so take up is close to 100%. In 2010, 20% of pregnant women took some pre-birth leave and 73% of fathers took paternity leave. In 2010, 44% of parental leave benefit recipients were men, 56% were women.

4.7 National framework of ECEC

Sweden has a fully integrated system of ECEC covering all children from twelve months to six years with no separate provision for children at risk, and with a unitary framework for access, funding, workforce training, regulation and curriculum. From the age of six most children spend a year in a preschool class (förskoleklass) before starting school. While not compulsory, the preschool class is offered as part of the public school system. The compulsory school age is seven.

4.7.1 Governance

In Sweden, ECEC is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education (since 1996, prior to that it was under the Ministry of Social Affairs). Until the 1990s Swedish public governance was highly centralised with central government setting of detailed laws, regulations and budgets.

Since the early 1990s public service delivery has become strongly decentralised: the ministry defines frameworks of goals and objectives, such as the national curriculum, with municipalities playing the central role in implementing policy, planning and delivering ECEC services. Kommuns also determine work conditions, such as pay, group size and adult:child ratios.

The National Agency for Education (Skolverket) monitors and evaluates policy and practice nationwide, and collects and publishes statistical information on all education services; it also plays an important role in supporting the implementation of policy.

4.7.2 Types of services

  • The main type of ECEC is the preschool (förskola), an 'age integrated' centre offering all-year and full-day provision for all children age one to six. Over 85% of all children in formal ECEC are attending a preschool.[162]

In addition, there is also family day care (familjedaghem - what is called a childminder in Scotland), also on an all-year round full-day provision, usually for a small number of children in the carer's home. Since 2009 family day care has been renamed to 'pedagogical care' (pedagogisk verksamhet) to indicate and encourage a wider diversity of forms of pedagogical and care activities than the traditional family day care.[163]Further, there is the 'open preschool' (öppna förskolan) offering playgroup activities to children (mostly under three) accompanied by their parents/carers.

In 2003 all four to five year olds received the right to at least 525 hours free preschool a year; since 2010 this entitlement has been extended to three-year olds. The free preschool entitlement is fully integrated into the full-time preschool centres and most children attend full-time. The free entitlement thus means in most cases a fee reduction for parents.[164]

Almost all six year olds (99%) attend the preschool class (förskoleklass), usually located in a school, before starting school at the age of seven, available for 525 hours/year and free of charge. Albeit not compulsory, the preschool class is considered part of the public school system.

The large majority (84%) of six year olds top up this free part-time service with after-school care (fritidshem), which is strongly state subsidised.

Most after-school care (free-time services as they are called in Sweden) is provided within the school. Over the last decade there has been an increasing integration of 'free-time' services within the school: 'free-time pedagogues' are often part of the teaching team in schools and organise and plan activities jointly with teachers during the school day.

Box 4.4: Types of services

Preschool (förskola)
Pedagogical care (pedagogisk verksamhet), formerly family day care (familjedaghem), or childminders
Open preschool (öppen förskola)
After school care (fritidshem)

4.7.3 Public/private mix of provision

  • ECEC provision is predominantly public in Sweden; over 80% of formal ECEC places are provided by municipalities (in preschools and pedagogical care).[165]

Until the early 1990s, publicly funded ECEC services were provided exclusively by the municipalities (kommuner). From 1991 independent providers have been permitted as part of the public ECEC system, and there has been a steady increase in independent preschools since.

In 2006, 16.9% of all preschool places were provided by independent preschools (i.e. privately owned). Today 19.5% of preschool places are provided in independent preschool settings, which includes:

  • for-profit companies (8.8%);
  • parent or staff co-operatives (6.6%);
  • other non-public ownership (4.1%).[166]

For 'pedagogical care' (mainly family day care) the proportion of independent providers is higher than for centre-based preschools, with 28.5% of places provided privately; for open preschools it is lower, with 12.9% of all such facilities being run privately.[167]

4.7.4 Financing and costs

  • Swedish ECEC is predominantly publicly funded; in 2011 7% of the costs of a preschool place and 17% of the costs of an after school care place were financed through parent fees; the rest was paid by the municipalities.[168]

The average annual running cost for each enrolled child in preschool in Sweden (all age groups one to six) was SEK 122,300 (£11,376).[169] The total cost for all preschool activities in municipal ownership was SEK 123,600 (£11,497) per place/child of which SEK 17,300 (£1,609) went towards financing facilities and SEK 89,900 (£8,362) towards staff costs. Municipalities spent on average SEK 108,300 (£10,074) per place/child to cover the running costs of independent providers. The annual costs for a place in a fritidishem was SEK 34,800 (£3,237),[170] with SEK 5,500 (£512) going towards facilities and SEK 24,300 (£2,260) towards staff costs.[171]

Table 4.1: Annual costs per enrolled child in preschool and after school care

Average
running cost
per child
Municipal cost of
payments to
independent providers
Municipal cost of
public preschools
% financed via
parent fees
Preschool SEK 122,300
(£11,376)
SEK 108,300
(£10,074)
SEK 123,600
(£11,497)
7%
After school care SEK 34,800
(£3,237)
SEK 34,400
(£3,237)
SEK 34,500
(£3,237)
17%

The local authorities are responsible for the financing of ECEC services in their area and for fulfilling the legal obligation of providing an ECEC place to every child who applies for it. Municipalities levy flat rate income tax to finance their activities and different tax rates exist across municipalities. On top of local tax revenue municipalities receive block grants from the central government (financed through the national progressive income tax) for service delivery without any earmarking for specific types of service provision.

Municipalities set the local fees structure for ECEC which applies to both public and independent preschool settings. Independent providers are not allowed to raise extra fees.

All formal ECEC provision, whether public or independently run, receive the same amount of funding from the municipalities to cover running costs, mainly through a system of per-child allocation to providers (public and private providers alike).

In preschool settings three to five year olds receive 525 hours/year free of charge, and the preschool class for six year olds is also free of charge.

  • Parent fees for preschools and after school care depend on income and the number of children in ECEC in the household. In addition, the maximum amount any parents pay is capped at a 'maximum fee' (called maxtaxa), which is set annually and on a national level.

Parents of children age one to five pay a maximum of 3% of their household income, up to SEK 1,260 (£117) a month for the first child attending; 2% for the second, up to SEK 840 (£78) and 1% for the third child, up to SEK 420 (£39). For children age six to thirteen the maximum fee in after school care is SEK 840 (£78) for the first child, SEK 420 (£39) for the second and SEK 420 (£39) for the third child (no fees for any subsequent child). In 2012, the monthly base income on which the maximum fee is constructed is SEK 42,000 (£3,907).[172]

Within the limits of the 'maximum fee' (maxtaxa) regulations and municipal fees structures, parent contributions towards the funding of preschool places can differ, with a maximum spread of parent fees covering a minimum of 2% and a maximum of 20% of running costs.[173]

Table 4.2: Maximum fees for a (full-time) ECEC place in 2012 (per month)

Preschool/pedagogical care
Maximum % of household
income
But no more than…
Child 1 3% SEK 1,260 (£117)
Child 2 2% SEK 840 (£78)
Child 3 1% SEK 420 (£39)
After school care (fritidshem)
Maximum % of household
income
But no more than…
Child 1 2% SEK 840 (£78)
Child 2 1% SEK 420 (£39)
Child 3 1% SEK 420 (£39)

4.8 Access levels and patterns of use

Enrolment in centre-based preschools is high in Sweden; 83% of all children age one to five attended preschool in 2011. 88% of children attend preschool by the time they are two, for three year olds it is 93% and for four to five year olds it is 94%. For one year olds attendance is considerably lower: 48% of children of this age group are in preschool. Almost all six year olds attend the so-called 'preschool class', which is part of the public school system, but not compulsory. 1% of six year olds attended preschool settings instead of this preschool class in 2011.[174]

There is no public facility for children below the age of one to attend formal ECEC services as it is assumed that this age group is covered by paid parental leave arrangements.

Table 4.3: Preschool enrolment rate by age, 2011

1 year 2 years 3 years 4 years 5 years 6 years total
48% 88% 93% 94% 94% 1% 83%

The overwhelming majority of preschool children are enrolled in full-time preschool, but their days in the preschool centres are commonly relatively short. Preschools are usually open from about 7.00 or 8.00 and close at 17.00 or 18.00, but most parents will drop off their children between 8.00-9.00 and pick them up between 15.00-1600.

  • For children age one to three average weekly attendance in formal ECEC is 33 hours.[175]

Attendance in family day care is relatively uncommon in Sweden. In 2011, 3.1% of all children age one to five used this form of ECEC. There has been a steady decrease in the number of children using family day care over the last two decades from 172,000 in 1988 to 19,397 in 2011. Similarly, the participation in 'open preschools' (öppna förskolan) has been in decline: in 1990 there were 1,600 open preschools in all of Sweden, in 2011, there were 439. This decrease is has to be seen in relation to the increase in available preschool paces over the same period.[176]

Participation in after school care (fritidshem) is also very common in Sweden: 82.6% of the six to nine year olds attended after school services in 2011. For ten to twelve year olds the figure was 16.9%.[177]

Table 4.4: Enrolment rate in after school care by age, 2011

6 years 7 years 8 years 9 years 10 years 11 years 12 years
84.6% 86.2% 84.1% 75.0% 32.1% 13.1% 5.0%
Total 6 - 9 year olds Total 10 - 12 year olds
82.6% 16.9%

Historically children's participation in ECEC was lower in rural and remote areas than in urban areas, and was also differentiated according to children's socio-economic and ethnic background. Recent reforms such as the entitlement to a place and the maxtaxa have helped close regional and socio-economic gaps.[178]

  • As the high levels of full-time preschool and after school care enrolment suggest, informal care is very uncommon in Sweden.

4.9 System of quality assurance in ECEC

4.9.1 Inspection, monitoring and quality assurance

Inspection

The municipalities are responsible for the implementation of policy and delivery of services. Public preschools are obliged to produce annual quality reports for evaluation by the kommuns. Kommuns often also require pedagogical documentation.

In 2008 a new Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) was established to ensure that municipalities and schools fulfil their responsibilities in accordance with the Education Act and in relation to the objectives and principles laid out in the national curriculum. Standards are not set nationally, but determined by the kommuns.[179]

There is no national regulation of child:staff ratios or group sizes, and there are variations between municipalities. Average group sizes and child:staff ratios increased during the economic crisis in Sweden in the 1990s, but have stayed relatively stable since 2000.[180]

  • The average child:staff ratio in 2011 was 5.3 children per worker; during the 1980s there were on average four children per preschool staff. The average group size was 16.8 children in 2011 (versus 13.8 in 1985).[181]

National Curriculum

ECEC in Sweden is today seen as the first stage in lifelong learning, and to emphasise the educational dimension of ECEC it was transferred from the Ministry of Social Affairs to the Ministry of Education in 1996. In 1998 Sweden introduced its first preschool curriculum. ECEC in Sweden is grounded in a pedagogical tradition that promotes a:

'holistic view of children and their needs and is designed so that care, development and learning come together to form a whole. Preschool is intended to promote a broad spectrum of contacts and social community, and to prepare children for continued education.'[182]

The revised preschool curriculum of 2010 emphasises the importance of play for children's development and learning. There is a focus on imaginative, creative activities, the exploration of the surrounding world and nature and cooperation in Swedish ECEC. Learning is also seen to be intrinsically linked to care. Care provides a sense of social well-being that forms the basis for development and learning. The curriculum emphasises certain core values the preschool shall transmit in its organisation and practice: respect for human rights, fundamental democratic values, social justice, gender equality and respect for the environment.[183]

4.9.2 Workforce qualifications

There are two types of workers in preschool settings (preschool and preschool class). Preschool teachers (förskolelärare) hold a three year University graduate degree; nursery nurses (barnskötare) are qualified at the upper secondary level.

Since the beginning of the 2000s preschool teachers receive their education in a joint teacher training programme where they share part of their education with school teachers and 'free-time pedagogues' (fritidspädagoger). 'Free-time pedagogues' who work in after-school settings (in Sweden these are called 'free time' services) also hold University degrees.

There are no formal educational requirements for family day carers (dagbarnvårdare), but most municipalities offer special introductory training of 50-100 hours for family day carers. However, three out of four practicing family day carers hold a child-related education.[184]

  • 51.7% of workers in the ECEC sector have a university degree, a proportion that has remained relatively stable over the last decade.

In independent preschools qualification levels have in general been lower and the proportion of preschool teachers has decreased from 48.8% in 2000 to 36.7% in 2011.[185]

In 2011, 98,500 workers were employed in the ECEC sector. Most staff in preschool settings are women, with men making up 3% of the workforce; this proportion has been more or less unchanged since the 1990s.[186]

Preschool teachers in Sweden earn on average SEK 24,000/month (£2,232). For comparison: primary school teachers earn on average a monthly income of SEK 26,000 (£2,418) and upper secondary teachers SEK 28,000 (£2,604). Barnskötare and dagbarnvårdare earn around SEK 20,100 (£1,870).[187]

Box 4.5: Median monthly salary in municipal childcare in 2004 in Euros[188]

Childminder: 1,793 (£1,439)
Leisure time teacher: 2,043 (£1,640)
Preschool teacher: 2,085 (£1,674)
Primary school teacher: 2,398 (£1,925)

4.10 Historical overview of ECEC policy

1900 First maternal protection legislation

1943 First state operating grant for ECEC

1955 Maternity leave

1968 - 1972 National Commission on childcare (barnstugeutredningen): develops framework for universal integrated early childhood education and care in Sweden

1974 Introduction of paid parental leave. Sweden is one of first countries to do so.

1975 Preschool Act (förskolelagen), entitles all six year olds to 525 hours pre-school education, state funded and provided by kommuns

1977 Paternity leave

1991 Local Government Act, decentralization; gives kommuns greater responsibility and freedom for ECEC provision (and other social services) including planning and delivery, funding, teacher training, staff pay rates; block grants from central government replace earmarked funding of ECEC services

1995 New Childcare Act comes into force: kommuns are obliged to provide an ECEC place for all children from age one whose parents are in employment or education, within three months of application

1995 Introduction of father's quota, this means that part of the leave is exclusively reserved for the father, so the couple lose this entitlement if it is not used

1996 Responsibility for ECEC transferred from Ministry of Social Affairs to Ministry of Education

1998 A preschool curriculum is introduced (Läroplan för förskolan, Lpfö)

1998 Introduction of (voluntary) preschool class for six year olds (six year olds since then taken out of ECEC statistics and listed separately)

2000 Universal entitlement of ECEC for all children introduced: now also children of parents who are not in employment or on parental leave are entitled to attend ECEC on a part-time basis (15 hours/week)

2002 A maximum fee (maxtaxa) with a maximum cap on parental fees introduced

2003 Free universal preschool provision for four and five year olds introduced (525 hours/annum

2008 Gender Equality Bonus - economic compensation if parental leave days are shared more equally by both parents

2010 Free universal preschool provision extended to three year olds

2010 Introduction of childcare allowance for parents who wish to care for their own child at home (voluntary for kommuns to introduce in their area)

4.11 Conclusion

Sweden has a universal and integrated approach to early childhood education and care where all children of preschool age have a social right to high-quality full-time and predominantly publicly funded provision. Parental leave and ECEC entitlement are closely coordinated with children having an entitlement to a place from twelve months old.

While coverage rates in ECEC are high in Sweden in international perspective, there is ongoing debate in Sweden over the lack of fit between opening hours of preschool centres and the working times of parents who work shift, or irregular hours (as is common in health and care professions, but also in industries). The 2010 Education Act stipulates that kommuns are responsible for providing ECEC services at 'uncomfortable working hours' (förskola på obekväm arbetstid) to support parents in reconciling work and family life. These services are, however, not subsidised by central government. Today six out of ten municipalities offer this service.[189]

The Swedish labour force is strongly gender-segregated, with two thirds of all employed women working in the public sector and two thirds of employed men in the private sector. The overwhelming majority of workers in the early years sector are women. Various campaigns over the last decades have attempted to attract more men into the ECEC professions, led by concerns that children need both female and male role models in their development, but the proportion of male workers in the sector has remained 3% since the 1980s.

There is much interest in increasing the amount of parental leave taken by fathers, particularly those on low and medium incomes, and measures put in place to address this include the Gender Equality Bonus and the higher payment ceiling for parental leave. Much of the information above on parental leave policy comes from the very recent publication by country experts Haas, Duvander and Chronholm, (2012).[190] These experts have been contacted by the research team (July 2012) and confirmed that recent political debates rest around whether to extend the quota of days reserved for fathers. The other issue currently being discussed is how to construct the baseline replacement payment rate in relation to previous income.


Contact

Email: Gita Anand