Quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) is essential for giving children a good start in life and an effective means to address inequality and socioeconomic disadvantages. The European Pillar of Social Rights recognises this in principle 11 “Childcare and support to children” and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through Goal 4 on inclusive and equitable quality education.
In addition to fostering social inclusion, affordable and quality ECEC is necessary for parental employment and female labour market participation. Therefore, it is a key measure for achieving sustainable and inclusive growth. In the European Union, ECEC refers to any regulated arrangement that provides education and care for children from birth to compulsory primary school age.2
Building on the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU ministers of education adopted the 2018 proposal for a Council recommendation on quality ECEC3 in 2019. The proposal recommends key actions on accessible, affordable and inclusive childcare services, staff development, monitoring and evaluation. ECEC has also gained importance in the European Semester cycle of policy coordination, which makes economic and fiscal recommendations and monitors the implementation
of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The most recent 2019 European Semester cycle played a critical role as an entry point for programming of the EU structural funds. The European Commission’s country reports highlighted ECEC as a targeted investment priority for more than half of all member states in future 2021-2027 cohesion policy funding.
This report is the second in a series of EUROCITIES surveys to collect evidence from cities in line with the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The report covers 23 cities in 15 EU member states governing over 17 million people. The information was gathered directly from city authorities and their relevant administrative departments. The responses fed into a comparative analysis to identify trends and map inspiring practices.
This report presents the findings on how cities deliver early childhood education and care and tackle child poverty, in line with principle 11 of the European Pillar of Social Rights. It provides:
- an overview of city competences
- trends and current social challenges at local level
- good practices from city measures
- obstacles that prevent cities from doing more or implementing better policies, and
- policy recommendations for cities, member states and the EU
1. Early Childhood Education and Care
- Childcare places are distributed unequally across the city.
- ECEC supply does not meet the high demand for childcare.
- Government co-funding is insufficient.
- Childcare centres face staff shortages and preschool teachers are inadequately qualified.
2. Child Poverty
- Cities lack suitable instruments to easure data directly related to the child in a systemic way.
- The social situation in cities evolves faster than available national level data.
- Children risk falling through the system’s cracks in situations where hidden forms of poverty may be overlooked.
- Cities actively work to increase the availability of ECEC facilities.
- Cities provide support for active social inclusion for disadvantaged children and families.
- Cities introduce special subsidies to support quality ECEC.
- Cities offer training programmes for ECEC staff and run quality monitoring of all ECEC settings.