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.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE PROVISION: INTERNATIONAL REVIEW OF POLICY, DELIVERY AND FUNDING
6 Country Report: Norway[259]

6 Country Report: Norway[259]

6.1 Key findings

  • Norway has a fully integrated, universal ECEC system for all children age one to compulsory school age (six years) that is predominantly state-funded with low parental fees, and thus supports parental employment. There is policy coordination across leave and ECEC, leaving no 'care gap' between the end of parental leave and a child's entitlement to an ECEC place.
  • In 2011, 83% of mothers with children age one to two were in employment, of which 44% worked full-time, 27% part-time and 13% were on leave.
  • In 2007, about 1% of GDP was devoted to ECEC services.[260]
  • Pregnancy leave and birth leave are funded at either 100% or 80% of earnings.
  • Private sector provision constitutes roughly half of ECEC provision. In 2010, 54% of all kindergartens were privately provided and 46% of all children attending kindergarten were in private institutions. Private provision is publicly subsidized to the same extent as public ECEC.
  • Public financing of kindergartens in Norway is substantial. Parental fees cover 15% of running costs in municipal kindergartens and 18% of the costs in private kindergartens.
  • Parents usually pay a monthly fee, which is capped by the government, for their child's kindergarten place. The maximum fee is decided annually by the Parliament in the annual national budget. In 2012, parent fees have been set at NOK 2,330 (£252) per month and NOK 25,630 (£2,769) per year.
  • 89.6% of all children age one to five attended formal ECEC in 2010.
  • In 2011, 10% of the ECEC workforce was male. There is an explicit target to increase the proportion of men working in ECEC settings to 20% as part of the aim to educate/socialise children into a gender equal society.
  • Informal care is very uncommon in Norway, and the main reasons parents give for their child not attending kindergarten are a shortage of places or the financial situation of the parents. Immigrant families, in particular, often prefer the cash benefit to a kindergarten place, as it offers a key source of income.

6.2 Concepts and objectives guiding ECEC development

Norway is often seen as a beacon in providing high-quality ECEC services for all children with a strong emphasis on a holistic pedagogical approach, outdoors activities and the link between play and learning in a child's development.

  • Similar to the other Nordic nations, Norway has a fully integrated, universal ECEC system for all children age one to school entry that is predominantly state-funded with low parental fees, and thus supports parental employment. There is policy coordination across leave and ECEC, leaving no 'care gap' between the end of parental leave and entitlement to an ECEC place.

In comparison to Sweden and Denmark, Norway's ECEC model developed relatively recently - since the 1990s. During the second half of the 20th century, early years provision in Norway lagged behind developments in the other Nordic countries, particularly with respect to services for the under-threes, displaying somewhat different norms in Norway with regard to the appropriateness of labour market participation of mothers and out-of-home care for small children.

  • An interesting difference to the other Nordic countries is that ownership of ECEC services in Norway has traditionally been a public-private mix since the 1970s, with about half of day care centres privately owned.[261]

During the 1990s and early 2000s a series of government statements and policy initiatives marked a change in perspective on ECEC provision and female employment: in 1995 the Day Care Institution Act set out a national curriculum and a universal framework for ECEC provision, and the 1999 White Paper Kindergarten for the good of children and parents set out the aim of offering a full-day place to every child. At that point, priority was given to children with special support needs.

In 2003, the Day Care Act was amended to legally oblige municipalities to provide sufficient early years services. The Day Care Act initiated a 'transformational change' in the Norwegian ECEC model, and ECEC service provision has expanded greatly since the 1990s. Changes have been particularly pronounced with respect to the smallest children: while very few under-threes attended ECEC settings before the 1990s, today the majority of one to three year olds attend full-day kindergartens - an increase in attendance that commentators have described as the 'toddler-invasion'.[262]

In recent years, development of ECEC provision has increasingly been influenced by the social investment paradigm, and there is a strong emphasis on the link between early years provision and female employment. On the other hand, there remains a strong child-orientation to ECEC that is part of Norwegian culture. The 2005 Kindergarten Act stipulates that ECEC should be 'pedagogical undertakings' offering children 'opportunities for play, self-expression, 'imparting values and cultures' and helping to ensure that 'all children experience joy and the ability to cope in a social and cultural community', whilst also supporting families in the care and the upbringing of their children.[263]

6.3 Socio-economic context

Norway is a constitutional monarchy. It is not a member of the EU but trades freely with other European countries as a member of the European Economic Area. Norway has a GDP per capita at 189% of the EU-27 average.[264]

The population of Norway totals 4.99 million[265] with about 16 people per square kilometre.[266] The total fertility rate is 1.95.[267] 9.3 births occur for every 1000 women age 15-19[268] and the mean age of mothers at first birth is 27.6.[269] 18.8% of the population is under 15 years of age.[270] 8.6% of households are sole parent families.[271]

Box 6.1: Summary of key population statistics[272]

Total fertility rate: 1.95
Mean age of mothers at first birth: 27.6
Teenage pregnancies (no. of births per 1000 women age 15-19): 9.3
Child population: 18.8%
Sole parent families (% of all households): 8.6

6.4 Employment patterns

The overall employment rate for 2011 was 79.6% of those age 20-64; the unemployment rate was 3.3% for those age 15-74.

The employment rate for men age 20-64 was 82.1% and for women 77.1%.[273] 11% of employed men work part-time and 30% of employed women.[274] It is most common for both men and women to work between 35-39 hours per week (62% of men and 50% of women).[275]

  • In 2011 83% of mothers with children age one to two were in employment, of which 44% worked full-time, 27% part-time and 13% were on leave.

As for mothers with children age three to five, 86% were in employment, of which 45% worked full-time, 29% worked part-time, and 12% were on paid or unpaid leave (if all elements of parental leave are taken, this can last to up to two years).

Among fathers for one to two year olds, 96% were in employment, of which most worked full-time (84%), 7% worked part-time and 5% were on leave. As for fathers of three to five year olds, the employment rate was about the same (96%), full-time employment is considerably higher at 87% compared to part-time employment at 6%.

Employment figures for parents with school children age six to nine are very similar: 86% of mothers were in employment, of which 47% worked full-time and 31% part-time, and 9% are on leave. For fathers, the employment figures were similar to those of the other child age groups.[276]

Box 6.2: Summary of employment statistics[277]

Total employment rate: 79.6%
Total unemployment rate: 3.3%
Women's employment rate: 77.1%
Men's employment rate: 82.1%
Employed women working part-time: 30%
Employed men working part-time: 11%
Mothers' employment rate, with children age 1-2: 83%
Of which full-time: 44%
Of which part-time: 27%

Mothers' employment rate, children age 3-5: 86%
Of which full-time: 45%
Of which part-time: 29%

Mothers' employment rate, with children age 6-9: 86%
Of which full-time: 47%
Of which part-time: 31%

6.5 Welfare system and social support for families with children[278]

Overall government expenditure takes up 46% of GDP in Norway.[279] As of 2009, public expenditure on social protection made up 26.4% of GDP.[280] 2.91% was specifically directed toward families and children.[281]

  • In 2007, about 1% of GDP was devoted to ECEC services. [282]

The ratio of income inequality between the top 20% and bottom 20% is 3.4,[283] while the at-risk-of-poverty rate for children is 11.7%.[284] Income tax on the average worker made up 36.8% of labour cost in 2010.[285]

Box 6.3: Summary of public expenditure[286]

Total public expenditure: 46% of GDP
On social protection: 26.4% of GDP
On families and children: 2.91% of GDP
On ECEC: 1% of GDP

The main general social insurance schemes in Norway are the National Insurance Scheme, the Family Allowance Scheme and the scheme providing a cash benefit for families with small children. Anyone who either resides or is employed in Norway is compulsorily insured under the National Insurance Scheme.

The National Insurance Scheme is partly financed by social security contributions, both from employers and the insured, and partly by taxes. Contributions from employees and self-employed persons are calculated on the basis of gross income from employment.

Family benefits in Norway include:

  • Child benefit: a universal benefit for all children under the age of 18; equal to NOK 970 (£105) per month and per child;
  • Cash benefit for families with small children: granted to all children age one to three who are not receiving care in a day care centre funded by a public grant; reduced rates are granted when the child is in a subsidised day-care centre for less than 33 hours per week;
  • Childcare benefit: a means-tested benefit granted when a child must be looked after by someone else during working hours or training courses; the benefit amount is set at 64% of actual childcare expenses up to a certain annual ceiling.

6.6 Leave policies for families with small children[287]

6.6.1 Structure

Leave in Norway is referred to as pregnancy leave, birth leave and parental leave. The terms maternity and paternity leave are not used.

Women are entitled to three weeks before the birth and six weeks following birth. Fathers are entitled to two weeks after the birth dubbed "daddy days" in addition to the fathers' quota included in parental leave. Parents are entitled to either 47 or 57 weeks depending on payment level. Of these, nine weeks are for mothers as described above, and twelve weeks are for fathers. The remaining 26 or 36 weeks is a family entitlement and may be taken by either parent. Each parent then has the right to one year of unpaid leave in addition to the entitlement described above.

There is no gap between the end of the leave period and entitlement to ECEC.

6.6.2 Payment and funding

  • Pregnancy leave and birth leave are funded at either 100% or 80% of earnings.

Leave is funded from general taxation. "Daddy days" are unpaid by government, payment depending on individual or collective agreements. Parental money may either be taken at 100% or 80% of earnings, up to a ceiling of six times the basic national insurance benefit payment (e.g. €57,564/£46,206 a year). If taken at 100% of earnings the length of leave is reduced by 10 weeks. This is funded from general taxation.

6.6.3 Role of employers

All women employed for six of the last ten months prior to delivery are eligible for leave, as are women who have earned at least half the basic national insurance benefit payment over the previous year. All employed fathers have the right to leave after birth for the 'daddy days', but payment is negotiated and paid by the employer.

Parental leave is funded from general taxation. It is possible for one or both parents to combine all or part of the parental leave with part-time work or in blocks with the agreement of the employer. There is also a requirement that the mother must have returned to employment or study for the father to take leave beyond the father's quota.

The Work Environment Act grants breastfeeding mothers the right to breastfeeding breaks of up to one hour per day. Parents also have a right to work part-time in order to care for children, until their children are ten years old.

6.6.4 Uptake of parental leave[288]

All mothers take pre- and post- birth money if they are eligible. Take up for paternity leave is around 89%, though fathers also use annual leave for the period immediately after birth. Take up of the father's quota of parental leave is thought to be around 89%, with 70% of eligible fathers taking more than five weeks. Mothers take up the rest of the paid parental leave entitlement.

6.7 National framework of ECEC

  • In Norway there is an integrated system of ECEC for all children from age one to compulsory school age (six years). Participation is voluntary, but all children have a legal individual entitlement to a preschool (kindergarten) place.

Local authorities (municipalities) are responsible for the development and supervision of public and private kindergartens and must ensure there are sufficient places for all children.

6.7.1 Governance

Prior to 2005, kindergartens fell under the responsibility of the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, but they have since been transferred to the Ministry of Education and Research, which oversees the entire education sector.

Administrative responsibility of kindergartens falls to the municipalities, which are responsible for the development and supervision of private and municipal kindergartens. They are also responsible for ensuring that kindergartens are run according to goals set by the central government under the Kindergarten Act (2005).

The Kindergarten Act governs all kindergartens, public and private, which must be approved by the municipality. In accordance with the Act, a Framework Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergartens was also introduced, which sets out the fundamental principles, goals, contents and activities for all kindergartens.[289]

  • Since 1984, municipalities have had a legal obligation to ensure a sufficient number of kindergarten places. In 2009 an amendment introduced a legal individual entitlement to a kindergarten place. Municipalities are obliged to provide a place for every child from the age of one year.[290]
  • In order to ensure collaboration with the children's homes, all kindergartens must have a parents' council and a coordinating committee.

6.7.2 Types of services

Box 6.4: Types of ECEC services[291]

Kindergartens (barnehager) - half-day or full-day full-year service for children 1-6 years
Family kindergartens (familiebarnehager) - childminding or family day care service
Open kindergartens (åpen barnehager) - drop-in centres for parent and child
Out-of-school care (skolefritidsordningen, or SFOs) - leisure time activities for school-age children (age 6-11) before and after school

The main form of ECEC for preschool age children is the kindergarten, a preschool institution which provides half- or full-day early childhood education and care. These kindergartens may be divided into age groups (either zero to two years or three to five years) or may consist of mixed age groups for children age zero to five years.

The formal kindergarten year begins in August, along with the primary school year, but kindergartens may continue to operate during winter and summer holidays. They are usually open at least 41 hours per week Monday - Friday; opening at about 7.00 or 8.00 a.m. and closing at 17.00 or 18.00.[292]

Some children, usually under the age of three years, receive ECEC in a childminding setting, called a family kindergarten. It is organised in a private residence, with a smaller number of children and an assistant under the supervision of a preschool teacher who may be responsible for several homes. There are also 'open kindergartens' or drop-in centres where parents may accompany their children, primarily for socialisation purposes.[293]

Children of school-age may attend out-of-school care called SFOs, which are leisure time activities provided before and after school.

6.7.3 Public/private mix of provision

Kindergartens may be provided by the municipality or by private groups such as firms, commercial providers, parent groups and non-profit organisations. Municipalities are responsible for the supervision and approval of both public and private kindergartens.

  • Private sector provision constitutes roughly half of ECEC provision. In 2010, 54% of all kindergartens were privately provided and 46% of all children attending kindergarten were in private institutions.[294]

In 2008, private provision included:[295]

  • congregations (7.1%)
  • parents (21.9%)
  • associations of housewives, social welfare, and others (1.3%)
  • enterprises (15.1%)
  • pedagogical/ideological organisations (3.5%)
  • individual persons (34%)
  • others (17.1%)

6.7.4 Financing and costs

  • Public financing of kindergartens in Norway is substantial. Kindergartens are primarily financed through grants from the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development. Parental fees cover 15% of running costs in municipal kindergartens and 18% of the costs in private kindergartens. [296]

In 2008, 17% of municipal kindergarten costs were covered by parental fees, 52% by central state funding and 31% by local municipal assets.

Financing is administered by municipalities. All kindergartens (public and private) must be approved by municipalities and may receive grants to cover part of their operating costs. In 2003, a law was passed requiring equal treatment of public and private providers with regard to public funding. Previously municipalities were not obliged to fund private providers, so fees were higher for parents using these services.

From 2004, a maximum fee was introduced for all ECEC settings, making private providers dependent on public funding.[297] Beginning in January 2011, state grants earmarked specifically for kindergartens were replaced with general block grants to the municipalities.[298]

The survey Telemarksforskning has calculated the average running costs for kindergartens for the year 2010 as follows:[299]

Private kindergartens (full-day places):

  • Costs for zero to two year olds: NOK 184,443 (£19,929)
  • Costs for three to six year olds: NOK 92,221 (£9,964)

Municipal kindergartens (full-day places):

  • Costs for zero to two year olds: NOK 200,915 (£21,708)
  • Costs for three to six year olds: NOK 100,457 (£10,854)
  • Parents usually pay a monthly fee, which is capped by the government, for their child's kindergarten place. The maximum fee is decided annually by the Parliament in the annual national budget. In 2012, parent fees have been set at NOK 2,330 (£252) per month and NOK 25,630 (£2,769) per year (this was the same as in 2011).[300]

Parents with more than one child enrolled in kindergarten are entitled to a fee reduction (by 30% for the second child and 50% for the third and subsequent children). Municipalities must also offer fee reductions for parents on low incomes.[301]

Parents of children (one to two years old) who do not attend kindergarten full-time, but are cared for at home may receive a cash benefit instead. This is in addition to a general family allowance for all families with children age zero to 18.[302] Parents may also benefit from tax deductions to help cover the cost of fees.[303] OECD estimates place net childcare costs, after benefits, at 11% of average family income.[304]

For after school care services (SFO) no current cost calculations for all of Norway exist. The municipal data base KOSTRA has produced such calculations for the year 2003 (average over all municipalities excluding Oslo): the costs for six to nine year olds in SFO was NOK 18,794 (£2,031).[305]

6.8 Access levels and patterns of use

All Norwegian children age one to five are entitled to a kindergarten place, and kindergarten attendance is very high. Paid parental leave constitutes almost one year, so few infants are placed in an ECEC setting before this time.

  • 89.6% of all children age one to five attended formal ECEC in 2010.

Attendance is highest among five year olds (98%) and lowest among one year olds (65%). On average, 96% of three to five year olds and 79% of one to two year olds were enrolled in kindergartens.[306] The majority of children age one to five (87%) attend kindergarten full-time (41 hours or more per week), but most children have an actual participation between 25 and 41 hours per week. On average, preschool children (one to five year olds) spend 35 hours per week in kindergartens.[307]

In line with the Norwegian government's aims to expand ECEC services, attendance in formal ECEC among one to five year olds has increased significantly in recent years, from 62% in 2000 to 89.6% in 2010.[308]

61% of children age six to nine year olds (classes p1 - p4) were enrolled in after-school care in 2010, of which 56% attended on a full-time basis and 44% on a part-time basis. Participation in SFO (both on a full-time and a part-time basis) is higher for six to seven year olds than for the age group eight to nine year olds. Around 45% of the first age group were in full-time SFO and 30% in part-time SFO respectively, while, among nine year olds, 11% attended full-time SFO and 17% attended part-time SFO.[309]

Box 6.5: ECEC enrolment

All children age 1-5 years: 89.6%[310]
1-2 years: 79.5%
3-5 years: 96.5%

All children age 6-9 in after school care: 61%[311]
Of which attend full-time: 56%
Of which attend part-time: 44%

Proportion of all children age 0-2 in ECEC arrangements:[312]
Formal: 0 hours (52%), 1-29 hours (10%); 30 or more (37%)
Average hours per week (formal): 33
Other: 0 hours (95%), 1-29 hours (4%); 30 or more (1%)
Parents: 47%

Proportion of all children age 3-compulsory school age in ECEC arrangements:[313]
Formal: 0 hours (19%), 1-29 hours (15%); 30 or more (65%)
Average hours per week (formal): 33.6
Other: 0 hours (97%), 1-29 hours (2%); 30 or more (1%)
Parents: 17%

  • Informal care is very uncommon in Norway, and the main reasons parents give for their child not attending kindergarten are a shortage of places or the financial situation of the parents. Immigrant families, in particular, often prefer the cash benefit to a kindergarten place, as it offers a key source of income.[314]

Of all one to five year olds, only 10.4% are in care outside formal ECEC (this figure includes both parental care and informal care provided by relatives or others). This mainly results from parental preferences during the first two years of their child's life: 33% of one-year olds are cared for by their parents, 1% by relatives and 2% by nannies (or other informal solutions). For two year olds parental care reduces to 8%, care by relatives to 0% and other solutions to 1%. For three year olds the figures are 4%, 0% and 1% respectively and for four and five year olds, parental care reduces further to 2%, care by relatives to 0% and other solutions to 1%.[315]

6.9 System of quality assurance in ECEC

6.9.1 Inspection, monitoring and quality assurance

The approval, supervision and guidance of individual kindergartens (public and private) are the responsibility of the municipality, which must ensure that each kindergarten complies with state requirements, such as establishing an annual pedagogical plan. County Governors (at the regional level) carry out inspections of the municipalities to ensure they are carrying out their legal obligations.[316]

The 2008-2009 White Paper Quality in ECEC announced the development of a national system to monitor quality in kindergartens as well as to compile an annual national report on the kindergarten sector.[317]

The Kindergarten Act, which came into force in 2006, regulates all kindergartens (public and private), which must be approved by municipalities. In accordance with the Act, a Framework Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergartens was also introduced, which sets out the fundamental principles, goals, contents and activities for all kindergartens.[318]

Kindergartens are expected to take a holistic view of care and learning. The Framework Plan recommends seven learning areas for all children:

  • Communication, language and text
  • Body, movement and health
  • Art, culture and creativity
  • Nature, environment and techniques
  • Ethics, religion and philosophy
  • Local community and society
  • Numbers, spaces and shapes

The Framework Plan recommends play and social activities as key opportunities for learning and development, but staff are able to choose the specific methods by which the national plan is carried out. Each kindergarten must set out an annual plan for the educational programme based on the national framework. Children's progress is not formally evaluated, but teachers give informal evaluations to parents once or twice a year.[319]

In addition to the annual education plan, kindergartens are subject to requirements regarding child-staff ratios. For children age zero to three years, one trained preschool pedagogue may attend to 7-9 children at once. For children age three to six years, 14-18 children may be looked after per one trained pedagogue. For all adult staff members the ratio is four children per adult. In family kindergartens no more than five children over three years may be looked after at once, and fewer if the children are younger than three years. A trained preschool pedagogue must also be available for every 30 children in family kindergartens.[320]

On average, a kindergarten will have two to three staff for a group of 14-18 children over three years, and two to three staff for a group of seven to nine younger children.[321] In 2011 on average the group size of mixed-age kindergarten groups was 17.6 children, for kindergarten groups of small children (zero to two years) 12.4 and of older children 18.7 children.[322]

6.9.2 Workforce qualifications

Under the Kindergarten Act, there should be at least one qualified kindergarten teacher per 14-18 children over three years, and one qualified kindergarten teacher per 7-9 children under three years.[323] Teachers are normally required to undergo a three-year tertiary level training period.

Assistants, who make up the bulk of staff in contact with children, are not required to have any formal qualification, but increasing numbers hold either secondary vocational or tertiary level diplomas. In 2011, 32% of kindergarten staff in contact with children were qualified teachers. A further 4% of staff had some other relevant higher education. Family day carers and staff in out-of-school SFOs are not required to have a particular qualification. The child/staff ratio was 3.9 children per staff in municipal kindergartens and four children per staff in private kindergartens.[324]

  • In 2011, 10% of the ECEC workforce was male. There is an explicit target to increase the proportion of men working in ECEC settings to 20% as part of the aim to educate/socialise children into a gender equal society.[325]

Table 6.1: ECEC workforce qualifications

Occupation Qualification
Kindergarten teacher 3 year bachelor degree from a tertiary college
Child/youth worker Educated to secondary vocational level
Kindergarten assistant No formal education required
Family day carer/childminder No required qualification, but must be supervised by a qualified preschool teacher on a weekly basis
Out-of-school free-time pedagogue No national requirement; decided on an local basis

Source: Moss & Bennett, 2010.

About 80% of trained kindergarten teachers are members of the teachers' union Utdanningsforbund, the Union of Education Norway. Assistants are members of the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees, or Fagforbundet. Nevertheless, the status, pay and working conditions of kindergarten staff are less favourable than those of primary school teachers.

There are no statutory requirements for staff to receive on-going training or professional development, but many kindergartens have implemented internal staff development programmes.

Box 6.6: ECEC workforce average annual income[326]

Preschool teacher: starting salary between NOK 308,100 - 326,200 (2008) (between £33,289 - 35,245)
Kindergarten assistant: NOK 310,800 (2011) (£33,581)
Primary school teacher: starting salary of NOK 361,400 (2011) (£39,048)

6.10 Historical overview of ECEC policy[327]

1837 First centres offering full-time care and supervision for children from two years of age introduced

1920 -1930 Increase in centres; crèches for lone mothers established

1920 First public kindergarten established

1954 First national regulations regarding day care services introduced

1909 Maternity leave introduced (six weeks)

1975 First Kindergarten Act

1977 Extension of maternity leave to 18 weeks, twelve of which could be shared between the parents. Fathers granted right to take two weeks unpaid leave at the time of child's birth ('daddy days') Late 1980s/early 1990s Extension of parental leave schemes to include individual entitlement

1995 Kindergarten Act set out first national curriculum framework

1999 White paper Kindergarten for the good of children and parents set out the aim of offering a kindergarten place for every child, with priority given to those with special needs

2005 Kindergarten Act, followed by new regulations: Framework plan for thecontent and tasks of kindergartens

2010 Kindergarten Act set out the social and educational goals of the kindergartens

2011 Parental money period extended to 47/57 weeks, with twelve weeks father's quota

6.11 Conclusion

Norway has a universal, 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.

There has been a 'silent revolution' in recent years with a massive increase of participation of the youngest children in kindergarten centres, and there is current debate in Norway regarding how early years pedagogy and practice should be adapted to meet the needs of one-year olds.[328]

Another issue that has been heatedly debated is the 'cash for care' benefit, with proponents arguing that parents wish to look after their children themselves when they are very small, and opponents pointing to the negative impact it has on mothers' employment and social integration of women and children from immigrant backgrounds.

When the 'cash for care' benefit was first introduced a high proportion of parents took this entitlement. Its use has, however, declined over the last decade: in 1999 75% of parents of one to two year olds received the benefit; in 2011 it was only 25%. This decline has been linked to the extensive expansion of kindergarten places and reduced parent fees suggesting that kindergarten services are parents' preferred option.[329] In August 2012, the Norwegian government restricted the length of the 'cash for care' benefit to the first year of the child's life (up to 23 months of age).[330]

There is on-going debate about the nature of the father's quota and about increasing leave for mothers in the parental leave system as well as increasing the proportion of men working in the early years sector.


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