The development of childcare facilities for young children in Europe with a view to sustainable and inclusive growth
The availability of high quality, affordable childcare facilities for young children from birth to compulsory school age is a priority for the European Union. These facilities include day nurseries and other daycare centres including family daycare, professional certified childminders, pre-school education or equivalent, mandatory school education and centre-based services outside school hours. In 2002, the Barcelona European Council set objectives in this area: ‘Member States should remove disincentives to female labour force participation, taking into account the demand for childcare... facilities and in line with national patterns of provision, to provide childcare by 2010 to at least 90 % of children between 3 years old and the mandatory school age and at least 33 % of children under 3 years of age’. Since then, achieving the Barcelona objectives has been at the heart of European priority setting, first in the Lisbon Strategy and subsequently in the Europe 2020 Strategy.Indeed, the ability of the Member States to significantly and sustainably increase the employment rate depends on, among other things, the opportunities men and women have to achieve a work-life balance. The availability of quality childcare facilities is crucial in this respect. Together with flexible working arrangements and the provision of a suitable system of family leave, it forms a raft of measures for achieving a work-life balance promoted at European level. It is also an essential investment in the development of children and the fight against premature school leaving and against the transmission of inequalities.